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Monday, Feb 20, 2017
Plant City Courier

Durant students learn art of clowning around

PLANT CITY - About 20 Durant High students spent time this school year clowning around on campus. And their teachers didn't mind. They were part of a clown team formed with the help of David Vick, a retired minister and professional clown known as Elmo Twist. The students learned the art of clowning, such as how to apply makeup, comedy routines and making balloon animals. The Durant High clowns made their debut at the Florida Strawberry Festival grand parade. They also appeared at the May 19 Strawberry Classic Car Show.
More public appearances are planned after the new school year begins in August. "I just like having fun with it. It's a great way to enjoy yourself," said Modesta Cordova, a 17-year-old rising senior. Her 15-year-old sister Nataly said she enjoyed children's reaction during the festival parade. "The look on their faces made my whole day," the rising sophomore said. Vick taught the students during weekly afterschool meetings of Durant's Leo Club, which is sponsored by the Plant City Lions Club. The club got behind the idea of a clown team at the suggestion of club member Al Berry, whose sister, retired City Manager Nettie Draughon, and former City Commissioner Betty Barker Watkins, liked to dress as clowns and march in festival parades. Draughon, who worked for the city for 57 years, and Watkins, the city's first female commissioner, enjoyed entertaining in clown costumes, Berry said. After Vick joined the Lions Club and Berry watched him entertain at club meetings, Berry hit on an idea of forming a clown team through the Leo Club. "I just wanted to carry on a legacy that Nettie and Betty started," Berry said. Vick presents the class as a way to entertain and serve the community. There are job opportunities for clowns, although even big circuses such as Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey only have a handful of staff clowns, he said. Vick and his wife Shirley, who performs as Peaches, play for private parties and for ministries. Even those students who never try their hand at clowning for a living can use the skills they learn, Vick said. Students learn to be comfortable in front of a crowd and how to have a stage presence, he said. Modesta Cordova, who wants to own her own boutique, and Nataly, who wants to be a pediatrician, say they just get a kick out of dressing and acting the part. "It's just a unique thing to be able to get out and have fun," Modesta said.

dnicholson@tampatrib.com (813) 394-5103