News and Articles

If you want to do a good job, you need to know what is going on in the world around you. That is true in any business, including clowning. I frequently check Google News for stories about clowns, the circus, and events past and present. I also read blogs and newsletters by clowns and other children's entertainers.

Blogs and Newsletters

If you want to keep up with the latest clown and circus news as well as information about new products and clown events, check out the following resources:

Top



Articles

Have you written an article about clowning that you would like to share on The Clown Network? Submit your ideas to SirToony@SirToonyVanDukes.com.


News for Clowns of All Ages - Episode 2

Sir Toony Van Dukes and his friends from the Freestate Clown Alley, Kapitol Klowns, and Just Clowning Around of Northern Virginia participate in the 2013 Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in Washington, DC.


News for Clowns of All Ages - Episode 1

The Clown Network presents News for Clowns of All Ages - Episode 1 - Starring Mike Becvar as Sir Toony Van Dukes.

Mentioned in the video is the Clowns of America (COAI) 2013 Annual Convention in Richmond, VA hosted by Virginia Alley #3.

Clowns of America (COAI) Annual Convention
April 16-21, 2013
Holiday Inn Midlothian-Richmond Koger Center
1021 Koger Center Blvd,
Richmond, Virginia 23235
http://www.clownalley3.com/2013COAI.html
Hosted by: Virginia Alley #3


Website Design

By Mike Becvar aka Sir Toony Van Dukes

The following article was published in the Mid-Atlantic Clown Association's magazine, The Big Top.

It is amazing how quickly the Internet has grown and become an integral part of our lives. My first exposure to the Internet was in 1991 when I was a freshman in college. At the time, I didnít have the web browsers like we use today. Access to the Internet was limited and my primary use was to send email messages or to download shareware games. Now, it seems like I canít survive without the Internet. In fact, I carry around access to the Internet in my pocket thanks to a smart phone.

I am Mike Becvar, aka Sir Toony Van Dukes. I am also the Virginia State Director for MACA. I am a full time web developer by day and a clown, face painter, and balloon twister on the weekends. My professional background is working as a programmer on educational content. Currently, I am helping the State Department put their foreign language training on the Internet. Every day, I work with a variety of web technologies including XML, HTML, JavaScript, graphics, audio, video and more. Outside work, I spend a lot of time on the Internet. I have been involved with my home ownerís association website, and I maintain websites for several groups including the Opera Guild of Northern Virginia, Just Clowning Around of Northern Virginia, and the Kapitol Klowns. I also have several personal websites. I hope that I can share some ideas that will help you.

Do you consider clowning around a business? If you don't, you probably should. And as a business, it is important that people have a way of finding you. Today, it is more important than ever before for businesses to be on the Internet and have a website. You can create a web presence using social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, but I suggest also having a real website with your own domain name.

I am a firm believer that all businesses NEED a website. You can have business cards, ads in the local magazines, or banners at the grocery store, but you will be missing out on business opportunities if you do not have a website. Over the next few issues of The Big Top, I will offer a few tips and suggestions for making sure you are getting the most out of your website. I hope this will be useful to anyone who already has a website or is still thinking about getting one.

Clowns are some of the busiest people I know. Some have full time jobs during the week and still manage to do several parties on the weekend. Add to this a family, alley meetings, balloon jams, and Kids Night at the local restaurant, there isn't much time left in the week. It is easy to say that you don't have the time or money to build a website. Unfortunately, your customers are on the Internet and will start finding your competition because they did find the time and money needed to build a website.

Is your business down? Do you blame the recession? Do your friends seem to be busier with parties and events than you are? It is possible that the recession is not your problem, maybe customers donít know about you and canít find you on the Internet.

The truth is that you donít need to spend a lot of time and money to create a website. I have helped friends create websites after just a few evening conversations and for less than $500. It helps if you already have good pictures of yourself and samples of your work. If you are just getting started, you don't need a fancy, full featured website, but you do need one that looks professional. Give yourself a budget and a deadline. A friend once said that you donít need to buy the most expensive items, just buy the best value that fits your budget.

There are three skills required to create a good website: the ability to work with the technology, the ability to write compelling content, and the ability to work with styles and media to make it look good. Donít be afraid of hiring someone to help you build your website if you canít do it yourself. If money is a problem, consider barteringÖ they build your website and you do a party.

For most childrenís entertainers, all you really need when getting started on the Internet is a home page that tells users who you are and what services you offer, plus some key information like your location, contact information and colorful photos of you and your work. When helping my friends with their websites, I usually propose we think about who is going to visit their website and what they will want to know. For most of my friends, the target visitor is often a parent looking for a clown (magician, face painter, balloon twister, etc.) for their childís birthday party. For others, it might be an event organizer looking for entertainment options for a corporate party or community festival. These people want to know what services are offered and if the business serves their area. Hopefully, the visitors to their website like what they see and decide to call or email for additional information and to book their event. So, when planning your website, think about the services you offer and who you offer them to. The most important pieces of information to include are: who you are, where you are, what you do, and how to contact you. One of the biggest mistakes I see is forgetting to tell people where you are located. Sure, you could travel to California for an event, but your target is most likely a little closer to home.

A good starting point is to design a website with just 3 to 5 pages. The basic website often includes: Home, About, Services, Pictures, and Contact Information. But, you can also start with something like Home, Clown, Face Painting, Balloons, About, and Contact Information. If you want to get fancy, you can add pages with latest news, links to friends, calendar of upcoming events, shopping cart with invitations and merchandise for sale, etc.

Once you decide you want to have a website, you need to find a domain name that works for you. The domain name is the address people will use to visit your website. (The domain name for MACA is midatlanticclownassociation.com) Often, the domain name will be related to your clown name or business name, but you may find that the name is already taken by another clown with the same name. When looking for a good domain name, make sure it is easy to remember and spell. Try to avoid choosing a name that is similar to another entertainer in your area. As much as I like the name Sir Toony Van Dukes, a lot of people seem to think it is Sir Tooney which could cause problems for someone trying to find my website.

After creating a website for Sir Toony, I realized that I was doing balloons at a lot of events and wondered if potential customers would avoid contacting me about doing balloons if they were NOT interested in my coming as a clown. I could have solved the problem by having a generic ďkids partyĒ website that listed various services including clowns, face painters, and balloon twisters, but I decided to create a website for Balloons By Mike. With my current website hosting account, I can host multiple websites without having to pay more. The only cost was to register a second domain name. On the website, I mention that I am also a clown and face painter (just to give them the options).

Hopefully, this will get you started thinking about getting a website for your clown services. In my next article, I will give pointers on writing content that will help people find your website when searching for entertainers on a search engine like Google.




Going to Your First Clown Convention

Each year, there are clown conventions, both large and small, held around the United States and the world. When I first decided to become a clown, I learned that one of the larger annual clown conventions was only 100 miles away. But, I wasn't a clown yet and I didn't know what to expect or if new clowns would be welcome.

A few years earlier, I had attended a Sci-Fi convention. There, people were dressed as their favorite Sci-Fi character and stood in line for hours to get their picture taken with or an autograph from their favorite actors. There were lectures, fan films, and even vendors selling movie props or posters. Although I liked watching Sci-Fi shows on TV and at the Movies, I felt out of place because I wasn't that big of a fan.

I decided to wait until I had my basic clown training before attending my first clown convention. Unlike, Sci-Fi conventions, clowns don't go to meet their favorite Circus Clowns, they go to learn new skills and to socialize with their friends from around the country. Although each convention is different, most have vendors, lectures, competitions, and jams.

The vendors come to the conventions to demonstrate their products and sell supplies like clown makeup, costumes, props, magic tricks, balloons, and face painting supplies. Since there are not many clown supply stores, conventions are great places to check out the latest products and do some shopping. Some people will go to conventions just for a day to visit the vendors. Your other option for clown supplies is to order stuff from the Internet and have it shipped to you house. Often the vendors will also be the instructors who teach the classes.

It wouldn't be a convention without classes and workshops. Clowns have a wide variety of skills and the classes can cover anything from clown makeup to magic, face painting, balloon twisting, juggling, puppets, or running a business. Some conventions will have specific classes for kids, also known as the Junior Joeys. Some conventions will have clowning 101 classes, but most assume you have already learned the basics from your local clown alley or another clown. Some conventions have enough classes to attract non-clowns who are interested in the balloon twisting, face painting, or magic classes.

A lot of clown conventions have competitions. A typical competition is the clown makeup and costume competition. Other competitions include, skits, paradability, face painting, or balloon twisting. The competitions are a fun way to demonstrate your skills and get critique from the more experienced clowns.

One of the things that keeps me going back to clown conventions is the chance to socialize with other clowns. This can be at breakfast before the day begins, between classes, or in the evenings when the clowns get out their balloons (or sometimes face paints) and hold a jam. A jam is a time to practice and share ideas with others.



Website Development


I have been on the Internet since the early 1990s. I have seen the technology change and grow. I built my first web pages when I was still in school. Since then, I have created and maintained many websites. Working on The Clown Network, I have visited hundreds of clown related websites. I have compiled a list of suggestions that anyone can follow to get more value out of your current website.

  • Design your website for your audience and what they want to know. They are looking for a children's entertainer in their area for a special event. Tell people who you are, where you are, what you do, and how to contact you.
  • Make sure you include all of the important information. I don't know how many websites for clown alleys or juggling groups tell the name of a school they meet at without giving the address. My closest juggling group is 25 miles away. Trust me, I don't know the location of every school in that area.
  • Make it easy for people to contact you. Don't just include a contact form, people want a real way to contact you like your email, phone number, or address.
  • Use your own pictures. I have seen a lot of websites where people have "borrowed" pictures from someone else's website. Make the time to have professional pictures taken for your website.
  • Be careful using pictures of other people's kids. You just painted a great face and want to take a picture. Ask the child's parents for permission, or better yet, have then sign a model release.
  • Include links to other websites. Search engines like Google will rate your website higher if you include links to other clown related websites. If you don't want to like to your competition, at least link to organizations like COAI, clown conventions, or small business associations.
  • Avoid the temptation to include background music. It may be cool the first time, but it is going to be hard for me to call you with that music playing in the background.

Sir Bud Productions
Are you getting the most out of your current website?
http://www.SirBudProductions.com/

Top



Clowns in the News

Clown in Space


On September 30, 2009 space tourist and circus entrepreneur Guy Laliberte, the Canadian billionaire who founded Cirque du Soleil, began his journey to orbit aboard the Soyuz craft which blasted off to the International Space Station. He says he will make the ISS astronauts laugh during his 12-day stay, and produce a web event that highlights the issue of clean water for all.

He arrived at the International Space Station in a Russian space craft on Friday, October 2nd. "I'm adapting pretty good ... but I ain't staying six months," he said to laughter from his colleagues who will each spend several months onboard the cramped outpost.

Laliberte plans to use the trip to draw attention to the importance of access to clean water on Earth and is due to hold a two-hour webcast on October 9 featuring former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Irish rock group U2 and others.

He paid more than $35 million for the privilege of becoming Earth's seventh space tourist, blasting off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, September 30, 2009.

Top