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The Classic Clown

Tips for hiring this retro-riffic party performer

With their bright-colored hair, big red noses and pancake-makeup, clowns are either loved or feared by children of all ages. Still, they're a staple at many birthday parties, putting on shows, making balloon animals and painting faces galore. Looking to book the perfect Bozo? Follow these five tips.

1. Pick your tricks. When it comes to hiring the perfect clown, consider the specialties each offers, and compare. If you want face painting or magic, make sure the clown provides that service. Remember, price comparison is not enough. "It's important to find out how much experience they have," Detroit-area Mary Ellen the Clown says when it comes to choosing the perfect entertainment. Experience, she adds, determines the price of each clown.

2. Kit 'n kaboodle. Ask what party packages each clown offers. "You like to have a person that does a variety of things to keep the children's attention," Mary Ellen says. Packages range by clown, but some include a puppet or magic show, face painting and balloons. It all depends on what you're looking for, and knowing that makes it a lot easier.

3. Behind the nose. If you want to get a peek at who the clown is, check out his or her website, if they have one. This way, says local Flutterby the Clown, "You see who you're bringing into your home." Personal pages provide the added info parents want to know, along with pictures of who the performer is – so there aren't any surprises on the day of your child's party.

4. Get second opinions. When in doubt, ask for references. Both Mary Ellen and Flutterby say they're happy to provide references to any potential clients. If the experience and packages a certain clown provides aren't enough for you, getting opinions from other parents is the way to go.

5. Guess who? Once you've selected your clown, prepare your children. For kids ages 10 or up, Flutterby suggests parents inform their kids that a clown's stopping by. At that age, catching them off guard could lead to embarrassment. And we all know that some children are afraid of clowns because they've either been traumatized by an image on TV or had a bad past experience. So, when they see a clown and get scared, don't force them to talk to him or her. Allow your child some time to warm up to the idea. "They've got to see that everybody else is having fun," Flutterby says.

For more tips on hiring a clown, visit PartyHow.com.

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