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Bring Back Bozo!

5:22 AM EDT on September 13, 2007

"We need some ballplayers," said the clown with the voice of a man who had taken too many breaks from chugging bourbon to chainsmoke.  He further taunted, "High and dry."  At this point, my dad shoved two dollars my way and nudged me toward the disinterested teenager holding three softballs.  I was probably ten or eleven and confident in my lot as the star first baseman of the Stonegate Spikes who had recently finished first in the Northside YMCA's coach pitch division.  It was a challenge I was ready to take.

Staring down the bullseye that seemed so close, I got into the pitching stance I intended to use the next year.  The angry old clown seemed to be unaware of my arrival, and I pounced.  The ball whizzed past the big red dot.  Then it came.

"Does your mommy dress you?"  As trashtalk, it was weak.  My mom never would have come up with the mismatched shorts/t-shirt combo I had to have been wearing.  Unfazed, I tossed the second ball, and I swear it knicked the target but failed to have enough velocity to do any damage.

Perhaps it was how narrowly he had escaped becoming low and wet.  Maybe he had always intended to wait until my last throw.  Probably, it had taken this long to think of it.  But the big guns came out here.  In a sing-songy voice, the old man serenaded me:

Red-Red
Wet his bed
Blamed it on his brother Fred

The skin below my carrot top flushed crimson.  Despite my embarrassment, I got off my third toss, but it was as wider than a Rick Ankiel fastball from before he became an outfielder.  Crushed, I meandered back to my cackling family.  Dad offered another two bucks, but I wanted to be anywhere else.  As we exited stage left, Bozo spotted a man in the back of the crowd.

"Look at the guy in the pink shorts."

The state fair hasn't been the same without Bozo.

When Clay Bennett (who, believe me, I have no intention of upsetting) took over as director of the state fair, he wanted to clean up the fair's image.  Among his first moves was to expel the insult clown in the dunk tank.  It was the worst move possible.

Bozo, in his place next to the grandstand, always had the second biggest crowd at the fair.  (First was the line for cinnamon rolls.)  Despite his inherent meanness, it was not as if his barking was obscene.  He never cursed, and as I demonstrated, the taunts were far less than that which an average teenager can come up with on a basketball court.

Getting rid of him had an immense cost.  The fair is now a corporatized, antiseptic event.  While I cannot find the direct link, I think decisions such as this are also why the number of free samples is way down.  The only purpose for going is getting flyers related to any upcoming elections, poncho dogs, and Patrick informs me that they still sell beer there.

There is a rumor that Bozo will make his return starting today, though not at his prime location from before.  If that's the case, you will probably find me in the crowd laughing at the poor suckers getting ripped.  I may even attempt to avenge the shame I brought upon myself as a child.  And then, I'll probably write an article assuming responsibility for getting him back.

If not, I'll probably just have a Poncho Dog loaded with mustard and read about Barack Obama.

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