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Clowning around

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: LISA BROOKSHIER - Lisa Brookshier grins as she rides her unicycle during the 2016 Portland Rose Festival as Lulu the clown. Brookshier has been a member of the Rose Festivals Clown Character Corps since 2012.When reflecting on formative moments in her life, Lisa Brookshier recalls the time she received her first unicycle.

“Dad liked to go to auctions, and we would have adventures based on what he would bring home,” she said. “One time he brought home a bunch of unicycles.”

Brookshier was 6 when she began riding the unicycle, and she still rides today as a member of the Portland Rose Festival’s Character Clown Corps.

“Every clown has a specialty, like balloon animals or face painting,” Brookshier said. “I ride unicycle in all of the parades.”

From a young age, Brookshier knew firsthand the joy that clowns brought. Since she was a child, her uncle has been a volunteer clown at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Portland.

“There’s nothing better than having a clown pick you up from school, or having one at your house when you had all the neighborhood kids over,” she said. “It was pretty great to have an uncle who was a clown.”

After doing “miscellaneous clown stuff over the years,” including participating in Estacada’s Fourth of July parade, Brookshier auditioned for the Clown Corps in 2012.

For her audition, Brookshier danced to the song “Tequila,” modeling her efforts after Pee-wee Herman’s dance in “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” and rode her unicycle outside of the Portland Rose Festival office.

After being accepted to the Clown Corps, Brookshier attended its two-day clown school to help develop the identity of her clown, named Lulu.

“They help you design your (clown) makeup based on your face, and they have lots of free costume stuff,” she said. “The grand finale is when you get to choose your nose.”

Since the Character Clown Corps began in 2008, 130 clowns have participated in the program. Led by Clown Prince Angel Ocasio, the group participates in the Rose Festival’s many parades.

When she’s in clown as Lulu, Brookshier believes certain aspects of her personality are magnified.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: LISA BROOKSHIER - In 2011, Brookshier participated in Estacadas Fourth of July Parade with her son-in-law Michael Kilpatrick, daughter Tiffany Kilpatrick and uncle Randol Brookshier.

“I’m fun and outgoing, and that’s definitely helpful, but (in clown) I’m even more joyful and upbeat,” she said. “It gives me permission to be a little more outrageous.”

She loves interacting with people while she’s in clown, whether that’s waving to them as she rides by on her unicycle or a one-on-one interaction.

“After the Grand Floral Parade this year, I clowned at City Fair,” she said. “Kids were eating lunch, and I sat down with them. They were so thrilled to get to talk to a clown.”

The excitement of children is one of Brookshier’s favorite parts of being a clown.

“I loved how amazed they get when they see a clown,” she said.

She believes clowns have a special duty to their audience, particularly the younger ones.

“When you have your (clown) makeup, you’re always on,” she said. “Kids will notice you, and you want to be the clown they’ll remember. When I see someone with a camera, I always take the time to stop and make sure they get the best picture, because that’s a memory for them.”

While some clowns do the gig full time, Brookshire works for the Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion during the week.

“I’m a weekend warrior,” she said.

Brookshier said she was “thrilled” that the Ford Family Foundation helped fund Estacada’s mini float in the Grand Floral Parade this year.

She’s no stranger to the foundation’s work. In 1999, she received a $75,000 scholarship from the foundation that paid for her higher education.CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: LISA BROOKSHIER - Brookshier and her fellow clowns in the Portland Rose Festival Clown Corps gather for a photo during the 2016 festival.

“I went from no college at all to a master’s degree,” she said.

Years later, Brookshier helped bring the Ford Leadership Program to Estacada and was a member of the first cohort in 2011.

She hopes Estacada’s participation in the parade strengthens the city’s connection to Portland.

“It’s almost like Portland is another world to some people in Estacada,” she said, recalling an occasion when she encountered two young girls while in clown at Thriftway. “I gave them stickers, and one of them said, ‘we used to live in Portland, and we used to go to the (Grand Floral) Parade, but now we live out here so we can’t.’ It’s such a great parade, and it’s not the same watching it on TV.”

Brookshier encourages anyone interested in participating in the parade, whether it’s joining the Clown Corps or entering a float, to do so.

“People might be surprised that you really can do it,” she said. “I have a desk job, but I can be a funny and goofy clown. It’s really special.”

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