CLINTON — Most little boys want to grow up to be firemen or baseball players or astronauts.

Not Merle Trott Jr. He wanted to be a clown, just like his father, Merle Trott Sr., and his uncle Malcolm Trott.

On Saturday morning, Trott Jr. — also known as Tickles The Clown — and four generations of Trott Family Clowns will mark 50 years of marching in the Clinton Lions Club fair’s annual parade.

There will be little ones, big ones, young ones and old ones in the parade, all branches of the Trott family tree that started in 1966 when Merle Sr. and his new wife Sophia cut short their honeymoon at Pleasant Pond in Caratunk to join his twin brother, Malcolm, as clowns in the parade.

Trott Jr. was dressed Tuesday in custom designed clown shoes that lit up, face paint, a garish jacket and tails, lime green neck tie and a tiny little top hat on his bald head. He has been Tickles for 31 years — he even posed for his Lawrence High School yearbook pictures as both Merle and Tickles — and said he has been in the parade all of his 46 years.

“I clash like heck,” he said, referring to his mixed-matched clown garb and oversized shoes made in Chicago. “I love my beautiful, butterfly, light-up mini top hat.”

The annual parade starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Clinton Elementary School, then winds its way to Main Street through downtown, as part of the Clinton Lions Agricultural Fair Thursday through Sunday.

“We’re going to have 50 clowns in the parade,” Trott Jr. said Tuesday from the Lions Club diner on the midway, where the aroma of beans, onions and salt pork cooking in four large crock pots wafted through the air. “Most of them will be painted. We’re going to have a classic 1966 Volkswagen because my dad and my uncle had a Volkswagen Beetle ever since we can remember.”

There will be three Trott clown floats with the Trotts being the grand marshals for the parade, volunteering their clowning for free.

“It’s going to be a big deal for us,” he said. “It’s exciting. Every time I do this it’s exciting. This is what I grew up to do.”

Clinton Fair secretary Buddy Frost said the Trott family — in all their makeup, funny shoes, clown paint and outlandish costumes — are important to the fair parade.

“The clowns do very well. They hand out candy, and the kids love them,” Frost said. “I think the clowns have been a big addition to our parade.” The fair, which opened for the first time in 1954, is on fairgrounds on Route 100.

Makayla Bernardini, Trott’s niece from Albion, known as Lovebug the clown, was dressed Tuesday in a layered tutu, red painted nose, glitter and rainbow eye makeup. She said she has marched in the parade every one of her 19 years. She doesn’t remember the first one.

“It’s just the norm,” she said. “I don’t know anything else.”

Her brother, Merle Sr.’s oldest grandson, Mike Bernardini, 28, dressed Tuesday in a rainbow wig, painted face and beard and a clown gown of colorful stars and checkers, said he has been a clown for the parade since he was born.

“As I grew up, it was every year,” he said. “It’s good. It’s good to have tradition, and we get to see everyone in the family — all the smiling faces as we walk down the road.”

The parade is like the Trott family reunion, said Trott Jr., who works as a professional clown traveling to events all over the country.

“Most people, when they have family reunions, they have barbecues or whatever. We put makeup on and act like fools,” he said. “This is our family reunion. We get all the family together, and this is our reunion. My dad and my uncle had five kids between them, and we were all like brothers and sisters growing up.”

Then came the cousins, 14 grandkids and clown uncles and aunts. Merle Sr. and Malcolm died within five months of each other in 2011 at age 73. Both had been community volunteers, and each worked as Santa Claus in Waterville during holiday seasons.

Parade participants are to include Ava Ladd and Coralie Spencer, both 4 years old, of Winslow, who will be clown princesses on Saturday. They will be joined by brothers and sisters 12, 10 and 8 years old. The youngest clown will be a 2-month-old boy.

The Trott family will meet at aunt Joyce Trott’s house on Railroad Street in Clinton early Saturday morning to get ready and begin the clown painting, Trott said.

“In the circus world you have what’s called Clown Alley, where the clowns have this whole area to get ready,” he said. “That’s what we kind of do. We have our own Clown Alley, and that’s going to be on Railroad Street. That’s how we’ve done it for years.”

As far as the public reaction when the Trott Family Clowns parade through downtown Clinton, it’s always the same.

“They respond to us that they’ve watched us grow up; they’ve watched all of us grow up,” he said. “They respond to us like they’re family, and that’s how it’s always been and I’m sure that’s how it’s always going to be.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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