2011 Clown of the Year
Barbara "Sparky" Bird
Many know her as "Sparky”, others as "MumZee” and still others as "Addy-Tude.” We now know her as the 2011 Clowns of America International (COAI) Clown of the Year.
Barbara "Sparky” Bird is a New York resident who has been a performing clown and COAI member for over 16 years. Sparky is one of the founding members of the Electric City Clowns – Alley #285, based in Schenectady, New York. Additionally, she is a founding member of Red Nose Response – Alley #399, has served on a number of COAI Committees and continues to serve as a volunteer on-staff instructor for the Capital Region Clown Arts Festival – Alley #369.
Known for assuring her fellow Alley members are recognized for their clowning efforts, Sparky has initiated and authored several successful COAI Clown of the Year nominations. Also, she played an integral role in Electric City's numerous Charlie Awards. In 2010 she served as an International Ambassador in China.
When asked how she felt about being selected the 2011 COAI Clown of the Year, Sparky replied, "This award is so humbling, particularly when I reflect on the past winners and their outstanding achievements. It's a thrill to be one of them. I've never been a ‘cover girl' before!
I feel honored that so many clown colleagues have supported my nomination. Being nominated is the biggest gift and the Clown of the Year award is one I will treasure for the rest of my life. I have never clowned for the awards and, in fact, see myself as the ‘got your back' person for the leadership of events and the organization. I truly hope I can live up to the legacy of Clown of the Year.”
"Clowning is such a separate aspect of my life, that of a nurse practitioner and as an independent consultant in healthcare management services. I've called clowning my mini vacations and mental health. It has let me collect a lot of toys and, better yet, some of the dearest, most special friends. I am constantly overwhelmed by the creativity, originality and genius of so many in this unique group. Clowns see everyday life as an endless parade of fun moments.”
"COAI has been the best way to learn clowning, both at conventions and through The New Calliope, to learn from the best. Each critique from the competitions has helped polish the rough edges but I'm still a "clown-in-learning.” As long as I clown from the heart and not the wallet I can keep the joy flowing.”
"For a long time Miriam "Senorita Sot”o Kleinberger and Paul "FuddiDuddy” Kleinberger have been encouraging me to go out and do more and they are some of my loudest cheerleaders. I thank them for their confidence and support. I also thank Marie "Mischief” Beck, Loretta "LaDeeDah” DeAngelus, Bill "Snappy” Hart (who was my instructor in Clown College), Nancy "Rowdy” Rosecranz and Cathy "Tots” Mackey, all past COTY winners I have clowned with and learned from, my daughter Elizabeth Lincourt and my grandchildren who are clowns, Victoria "Boo Boo” and Ben "Hippie” Lincourt who have clowned with me and will carry on the love of silliness, smirks and smiles, all those that supported my nomination with an endorsement letter, all the members of Electric City Alley #285 who have helped me grow and finally the Board of Directors of Red Nose Response for the opportunity to see clowning from a broader arena.”
Her adoring fans are never at a loss for words on her behalf:
Miriam S. "Senorita Soto” Kleinberger, (Nominated Barbara "Sparky” Bird): "Barbara not only promotes clowning as an avocation, she is a perfect example of all that is good about the art form's many traditions, while bringing forth an energy and an enthusiasm for Clowns of America International (COAI) and all it stands for … She is the heart of COAI in action.”
"As a founding member of Electric City Clowns - Alley #285, Sparky not only proposed affiliation with COAI, she campaigned for it! She is an enthusiastic, dedicated, accomplished COAI member who deserves the recognition she so actively seeks for others.”
Bob "Bunky” Gretton, 2009 COAI Clown of the Year: "Barbara has such exceptional qualities and brings all of them into her clowning. She takes her clowning very seriously by touching so many with her fun and comedic capers in and out of clown… With her medical background, Barbara is a natural with soft assistance needed in the clowning work whether in the hospital setting or the disaster scene.”
Catherine "Tots” Mackey, 2005 COAI Clown of the Year & COAI Competition Chair: "No matter where she is, she brings with her the happiness of her many clown characters. At every opportunity she is introducing clowning and her involvement in the Red Nose Response is amazing… Her impact on the clowning community is vast! Barbara is always the get-up-and-go person when it comes to getting something done in the name of clowning. I don't know how she can do so much!”
William "Snappy” Hart, 2001 COAI Clown of the Year: "She has shown nothing but the utmost respect and professionalism for the art of clowning… Barbara has never been one to say NO, she has been one of the backbones to the very successful Electric Clown Alley, Clowns on Rounds, and the Red Nose Response.”
Loretta "La*Dee*Dah” DeAngelus, 2000 COAI Clown of the Year: "When Barbara first became a clown, you could see how excited she was and how eager she was to learn all she could and share what she had learned… That enthusiasm has not only continued, but has blossomed. Barbara continues to be a positive influence for clowns. Her clowning career emulates the true spirit of the performing art of clowning.”
Marie "Mischief” Beck, 1999 COAI Clown of the Year: "Barbara is a great leader and never hesitates to take on tough jobs for the Alley. She also is willing to work behind the scenes without recognition. She is humble and a gracious lady. She volunteers for many events just because she loves what she does and she loves the people that she makes smile. She has volunteered for many events through the years and when someone is needed in a pinch, she is always there… She works hard at being a good clown and helps others to do the same.”
Paul "Fuddy-Duddy” Kleinberger, COAI International Ambassador Program Chair: "Sparky the Clown is probably best known for her infectious enthusiasm, boundless energy and sense of fun… Sparky is a great clown who remains involved in our community of clowns, is supportive of many worth while charity pursuits, takes a leading role in the clown arts educations and offers dependable proven leadership… She is a role model for every member of COAI to emulate.”
Richard "Smoothee” Reynolds, Past Vice-President and President of The Electric City Clown Alley: "Barbara has always been there as a clown or face-painter or entertainer for people and/or groups that can not afford to pay. She is the first person to volunteer to do her craft for any fund-raiser that comes along. She has been there for all sorts of benefits and events that shoes she and clowns do care even though they are not getting paid for their abilities. She is at the head of the line to help … Barbara is a business woman in the real sense of the word… When she is asked to offer her advice, she steps up to the plate and speaks as a business woman and not only as a clown.”
Elizabeth "Birdy” Lincourt, Face Painter and Mother of Victoria "Boo Boo” Lincourt and Ben "Hippie” Lincourt: "She (my mother) celebrates life, chooses joy, and uses clowning to spread understanding and respect. Barbara is a natural clown, being goofy and silly and generally a fun person to have around. She never hesitates to throw the element of fun into an event. She adopted the life philosophy that each and every day includes something which ‘makes you happy.' As a result, thousands of people have now been able to say ‘a clown made me happy today.'”
"She demonstrates, first hand, how joy should be shared and how it multiplies when you love your work… She's absolutely fabulous, and at the end of the day, if I were to ask her (as I sometimes do) what made her happy today, I can guarantee that her answer would stem from making others smile.”
Stephen "Mr. E-Busy” Andersen, Former COAI Ambassador to Africa: "When I volunteered for the US Peace Corps to serve in Africa and become COAI's Ambassador to Africa, Ms. Bird supported me every step of the way… She regularly emailed me to support my work, and she relayed my African experiences posted on my website not only to my fellow joeys, but also to others in the wider community back home. When I returned to the USA, Ms. Bird actively supported a sister Alley partnership between the Electric Clown City Alley and a group of clowns in Mali, Africa. She did that by soliciting clown supplies to send to the clowns in Africa, and then even paid the postage to send the box. These supplies will encourage a sharing of both a cultural and clowning history between two continents.”
Barbara "Sparky” Bird is a consulting nurse practitioner, a mother of three and grandmother of four. As a clown she is known as being dedicated to COAI, an award-winning competitor, teacher, volunteer, go-getter, businesswoman, mentor, friend, and, now, COAI 2011 Clown of the Year. Congratulations, Sparky!