MCC Clowning family headed to Thanksgiving Day Parade
Clowning around is a family tradition for the Draegers of Linden. It all started when Tim “Skippy” Draeger was recruited to be a Michigan State University (MSU) campus clown by Dr. Brian Ivory in 1983.
Fast forward a few years to 2018, and we find Skippy’s daughters have all followed in his oversized clown shoe footsteps as members of the Honors College clown troupe at Mott Community College, including the latest family clown, current MCC student Katherine “Snickers” Draeger.
Both middle sister Libby (“Sprinkles”), and eldest sister, Melody (“Shortcake”), were clowns at MCC, and both are currently students at MSU (just like Dad). Katherine (“Snickers”) plans to follow the family to MSU next year to pursue a degree in Hospitality Management.
Performing together for the first time, the three sisters will take their clowning to the Motor City this Thursday as part of a group of 26 current and former MCC Campus Clowns appearing in the Detroit Thanksgiving Day parade.
“When we first started participating in the parade, we only had five clowns from MCC,” said Ivory (“Dr. Bubby”), Director of the Mott Honors College and founder of the MCC Campus Clowns. This year represents the largest group he has taken to the parade, which includes both current and former clown troupe members.
Libby “Sprinkles” Draeger is glad Ivory included past members this year. “I love doing the parade. This will be my third time doing the parade, the second time with the clowns. It’s definitely not easy, we get into makeup at 2 a.m. and it's about 10-11 hours before we can take it off. But this year I get to do it with BOTH of my sisters, and I couldn't be more excited to "clown around" with them,” said Libby.
Katherine “Snickers” Draeger echoed her sister’s sentiments about performing together saying “I don't know who's more excited them or me!” Katherine applied to MCC specifically because she wanted to be a campus clown. She likes being in character, saying it allows her to be herself. “Because you are wearing the clown makeup, people don't know who you are. They only see the clown and it is the best feeling in the world. I can be completely myself,” she said.
The Clown Troupe is an important part of Katherine’s college experience. “You make so many great friends within the troupe. We are one, big clown family and you can definitely tell. We will spend time together quoting our show and acting like clowns, whether we have the makeup on or not,” she said.
Clowning at MCC was rewarding for both Melody and Libby too. A Political Science major at MSU, Libby said her favorite part of being a campus clown was getting to meet the kids they performed for. “You never know what a kid has going on in their home life, or if they're having a bad day or not. But for those few hours that we were at their school, or the Boys and Girls Club, we had the opportunity to let them forget for a while and just be a kid. I loved seeing their faces light up when we did something silly, and kids always give the best hugs!” she said.
Melody credits clowning with improving her self confidence. “Being ‘Shortcake’ showed me a side of myself that I never would have found otherwise. I was a quiet kid growing up. Joining the clowns my second year at Mott forced me to step out of my comfort zone in a big way,” she said. “I will forever be grateful for the experience of being a Mott Campus Clown.”
The MCC Campus Clowns started in 2011 as part the service learning course titled Social Diversity and Civic Engagement Lab (HONS 251). Ivory recruited and trained the first-ever class of honors students for the new troupe, which has continued to grow over the years. The group now focuses their energy on an anti-bullying program, which includes a mix of anti-bully songs, classic clown routines, comedy magic and a student pledge to not bully others. The students spend seven weeks rehearsing the anti-bully program they perform at schools, Boys and Girls Clubs and at public events in Flint, Lansing and Detroit.
Ivory first began clowning while in college for his undergraduate degree at MSU, and
before graduating he had started clown troupes at two universities. Ivory continued
his "clown education" in 1987 when he attended the famous Clown College operated by
the Ringling Bros,
Barnum & Bailey Circus in Venice, Florida. After graduating with a “Fun Arts” degree, he performed professionally both as a clown and as "Gopher the Gold,” mascot for the Michigan
This fall marks the 15th class for the MCC Clown Troupe. The group is a regular part of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade and has become a regular feature at the Detroit Zoo and at Boys and Girls Clubs in Flint and Detroit, in addition to being in high demand at local elementary schools.
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