Golden Valley's Penny Case twice went to the circus while growing up in Monmouth, Ill.
She enjoyed the antics of the clowns, but never gave thought to entering the clown profession until years later while living in Riverside, Calif.
"I used to teach nursery school and one day made up a clown suit and put on makeup to amuse the children," Case said.
"I liked it.
"But I had no thought of going into clowning until I put a camping trailer up for sale and a clown named Jimbo bought it.
He asked me if I'd like to get into clowning and I said yes.
I began visiting him at his mother's home and he showed me how to tie balloons."
It was from that humble start that a 21-year career would emerge.
Case began a business called "Cases of Clowns by Penny" in October 1978.
She performed at birthday parties, grand openings of businesses and company picnics until selling the business in June 1999.
"At parties, I'd do a 20-minute magic show and there were always balloons," she said.
"I did face painting, depending on the number of children attending.
It had to be 12 or less.
"At picnics, I looked after children for three hours, occupying them with face painting, games, balloons and a magic show if time permitted."
The only formal clown training she received came from attending a clown camp in La Crosse, Wis.
for one week each summer during 1989 and 1990, Case said.
However, she attended clown conventions once or twice annually to refine skills and learn new ones.
She often dressed as the Tooth Fairy for competitions at those conventions.
It was at conventions that she bought magic kits and attended classes.
"I learned how to put a needle through an inflated balloon without popping it," Case said.
"I also would put a silk scarf in a cupcake pan and out would come a cupcake.
Children loved that one."
Case said she was a member of World Clowns of America for 15 years and served as far west director of the organization for three years.
She wrote several articles that were printed in "Clowning Around," a publication of World Clowns of America.
In 1995, Case received a plaque recognizing her as outstanding member of the Humor Maintenance Organization of Clownifornia), which is based in Grand Terrace, Calif.
The largest audience she has performed before was about 300 during a World Clowns International convention, Case said.
She plans to attend that convention April 2-7 in Mesa, where she will be a judge for parade ability and skits, she said.
Her years in Riverside brought a good deal of personal satisfaction, too.
It was while performing in 1998 at the Riverside Settlement House, a charity for children, that Case had her fondest memory.
"I turned around and looked out a window and saw a child with dirt on her face looking wide-eyed at me," Case said.
"It really moved me to the point where I said, 'This is why I'm a clown.'
Case said she also performed every Thanksgiving for five straight years at the Mead Valley (Calif.) Crossroad Community Church, doing face painting and balloons for two or three hours while dinner was served to the poor.
It was her way of giving back for all she had been blessed with.
A pinched nerve in her low back extending into her right leg led to her retirement as an active clown 2.5 years ago, Case said.
Case's work experience prior to embarking on her clown career was largely as a keypunch operator.
She worked for two years for the Rock Island Arsenal, a government installation, for two years at Norton Air Force Base near San Bernardino, Calif., and for five years at Riverside Community College.
She also taught nursery school for three years in Riverside, which is where her clowning career began.
Case and her husband, Ronney), have been married 32 years.
They bought a piece of land in Golden Valley in 1999, put a mobile home on it in May of 2000 and moved in permanently last August.
In her spare time, Penny enjoys arts and crafts.
She makes flowers from bread dough and roses from ribbons and paints T-shirts.
She attends Golden Valley Baptist Church, where she does a crafts program for first and second-grade students each Sunday.
Case said she will do face painting with children at a Baptist church in Chloride on May 11.
Neighbors is a feature that appears Monday in the Kingman Daily Miner.
If you have an interesting story you'd like to share, contact Terry Organ at 753-6397 ext.