How The Seafair Clowns Got Their Start at Seattle University
Posted by Isaac Gardon on Wednesday, August 5, 2015 at 3:38 PM PDT
With Seafair weekend just past and the roar of the Blue Angels still fresh in our ears, we celebrate those icons of the weekend, the Seafair Clowns. We know the Seafair Clowns as those colorful characters on the firetruck in the Torchlight Parade and around town, but did you know they got their start at Seattle University?
Long time Seafair Clown, Jim Webb,’69, revealed that the clowns were formed as a civic project for the Graduates’ Club of Seattle University. “The Graduates’ Club was created to give Seattle University alumni networking opportunities and to promote Seattle University in the community. In 1954, the Seafair organizers approached us about getting involved and they had a need for clowns.” And just like that, the Seafair Clowns were born.
According to their website, “The mission of the Seafair Clowns is to serve the community by spreading joy and laughter through charitable visits and participation in local events.”
“People want permission to laugh and I facilitate laughter,” Jim said. This year marked Jim’s 51st year as a Seafair Clown. Not a traditional four-year student, Jim did not feel connected to the Seattle University community and those feelings continued as a graduate - until he found the Graduates’ Club of Seattle University and the Seafair Clowns.
“The Graduates’ Club was a good connection point for me and the Seafair Clowns brought me out of my shell. As a student I had a stutter, but I no longer do and I attribute much of that to clowning,” Jim shared. He went on, “Being a clown is more than a uniform. You need to interact and build connections with people. Those connections give me endorphins and energize me.”
Fellow Seattle U alumnus and Seafair Clown, Steve Boudreau,’75,’81, says, “The clowns take you so far beyond your normal comfort zone. You’ll go places and meet people you probably wouldn’t meet otherwise. I’ve met a whole range of people in the clowns from lawyers and accountants to doctors and social workers. That’s one of the benefits. It’s a great networking opportunity.”
According to Steve, the clowns do more than just make people laugh. Each year they adopt a school and provide its students with backpacks and school supplies. “We also volunteer with children in foster care, the Ronald McDonald House, help St. Vincent de Paul get donations and visit retirement homes,” Steve added. The clowns have also established a 501(c)3 charitable fundraising organization.
While the Graduates’ Club only allows Seattle U alumni to be full members of the group, non-SU Graduates’ with clowning talents can join as associate members. Today the Seafair Clowns boast 58 members.
Now the clowns want to reconnect with their roots and the Seattle University community. “We want to connect with alumni and the Seattle University community,” Jim said.
Alumnus Mike Mullen,’89, is one new recruit to the clowns. Seafair 2015 marks his first season with the club, sharing that, “I first met the clowns at a Seattle U men’s basketball game and it seemed just weird enough to be fun. I’m excited for the opportunity to be a clown.”