Kelly Clown Festival

Kelly (Emmett) Clown Festival

First weekend in May
Houston, Missouri, is the hometown of Emmett Kelly, who was the world's most famous clown. Kelly was born on December 9, 1898, in Sedan, Kansas, but his Irish father moved the family to a farm near Houston when he was six years old. Kelly developed an interest in cartooning, and by the time he left Houston to seek work in Kansas City at the age of 19, he had gained a reputation as an entertainer with his "chalk talk" act, which involved telling a story while sketching on paper with colored chalk.
Best known for his role as "Weary Willie," a sad-faced tramp dressed in tattered clothes who was originally one of his cartoon characters, Kelly worked for a number of circuses and in 1952 made his motion picture debut in The Greatest Show on Earth . He died in Sarasota, Florida, on March 28, 1979—opening day for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in New York.
Houston's Emmett Kelly Clown Festival began in 1988 and is timed to coincide with the opening of the circus season in May. Among the 700 or 800 clowns who participate in the two-day festival are Emmett Kelly's son (Emmett Kelly, Jr.) and grandson (Joseph Kelly), both of whom continue the "Weary Willie" tradition. In addition to the clown parade and performances of clown stunts and skits, there are a number of "chalk talk" storytelling events.
Houston Area Chamber of Commerce
810 S. Sam Houston Blvd.
P.O. Box 374
Houston, MO 65483
417-967-2220; fax: 417-967-2178
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.