On the Ave: Tears for a Clown

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By: Russell Swanson, Exec. Dir., VDID, Main Street Vineland

Photo courtesy of George Perez Art & Music Facebook page.

VINELAND, N.J. — Everybody loves a clown. Clowns entertain us. They give us joy. They make us laugh. Clowns, however, can also make us sad. They can bring tears that can make us happy or sad.

We’re sad today because a clown recently left us. We lost Kenneth Wright, known to many as Ken I. Clown. Ken was supportive of our events on The Ave for years. If you were at our two previous food truck festivals, Christmas parades, Pumpkin Patch events, meet-and-greets, and other functions, you probably saw him as a clown or on his stilts. He brought a smile to faces as he greeted people, working the crowd, and making people happy, especially the children.

Ken’s widow, Dawn, recounted how her husband loved to make people laugh, ever since starting out as a clown with the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus.

“It didn’t matter whether he was performing as a clown, as a stilt walker, or as a magician. He loved to make people laugh—especially children,” she said. “He just loved the sound of children’s laughter and that’s one of the things that he lived for and, I think, he brought out the child in every one of us who knew him.”

He did much volunteer work, she said, but considered it a labor of love.

“He was always ready to help a good cause,” she said. “He had a big heart and he made friends no matter where he was—and he was always ready to lend a helping hand to anyone who needed it. He did not want to just exist in life, but wanted to live life to its fullest—and he did exactly that.”

It’s for all of these reasons that the Kid’s Corner at our Food Truck Festival on The Ave was renamed the Ken I. Clown Kid’s Corner. So, each year at the festival, a little part of Ken will stay with us.

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TAKE A SURVEY. Your participation is being requested in a very important survey that will help develop The Ave of the future. This survey, developed by Main Street New Jersey, is currently being used in about 100 communities. This will lead up to a full-day visit to downtown Vineland by Main Street New Jersey on September 12 for a “Transformation Strategy Development Technical Visit” involving Main Street New Jersey, as well as City, Main Street Vineland, business, and community leaders, and Vineland residents. This is a follow-up to a conference held here a couple of months ago at which representatives from Main Street districts from throughout the state came. I’ll have more information on the visit next week but, for now, take the survey by going to surveymonkey.com/r/9JQM6Y5. The deadline for the survey is Sunday, September 8, at midnight.

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If you haven’t been by the mini-park at the southwest corner of Landis Avenue and the Boulevard, go and check out the progress that’s been made by artist George Perez and his assistants on the military mural. They continue their hard work and the mural is taking shape more and more.

Only part of the expense of this valuable initiative is covered by grants and the various donation of goods and services. For the rest, and to make this a real community effort, we’re asking for donations. We want to raise $7,500 and we’ve made it very easy for you to contribute. Just go to our website—TheAve.biz—and, on the home page, click on the link for the military mural. You’ll be taken to a page where you can find out more about the project and how to donate—and since we’re a 501(c)3 entity, your donation is tax-deductible. No amount is too large or too small. You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve contributed to a great project that beautifies The Ave and, at the same time, honors those—past and present—who defend freedom, our country, and its ideals.