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Clown Family Takes Circus Act On The Road

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FAYETTEVILLE — Raising a family can be a three-ring circus. For one family, the circus is their solution to family fun.

Jay and Kristin Stewart love to clown around. The husband and wife team gave up their clown careers after the birth of their daughter, Karen. They thought the decision to leave the circus world was the best thing to do.

"The nine to five thing got me down because I wasn't seeing her at all," Jay says. "I know a lot of families can relate. You get up in the morning and she's asleep, and you get home and she's ready to go to bed."

They soon found out, they were not all smiles about their decision.

The Stewarts are now back on the road with theRingling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. They are in Fayetteville this weekend with the "Greatest Show on Earth."

They say bringing their 21-month-old along was the greatest decision they have ever made.

"We are so much happier now doing what we love to do and if we are happy, she's happy," Kristin says.

While the Stewarts are in the ring, their daughter is in a nursery provided by the circus. They see her much more than they would if she was in day care eight hours a day. When Karen gets older, the circus also offers schooling.

The Stewarts say their daughter is now traveling with an extended family of 300 -- a family friendly environment where laughter and fun always surrounds her.

"It's the biggest toy box in the world," Jay says.

Karen does recognize both her parents in full costume. They say she is never really been interested in putting on any clown makeup, but for the first time Thursday, she put on a big red nose.

The Stewarts are examples of Whiteface clowns, but there are two other basic types in the hierarchy of the circus world: Auguste and Character.

The Whiteface clowns are in charge. They set up the routine and throw rather than take the pie in the face. Whiteface clowns do not show any skin through their makeup or costume.

Auguste clowns wear oversized, mismatched clothes. They are the knockabouts of the clown world and are often seen as buffoons and misfits.

Character clowns portray an identifiable character. The tramp and hobo are the best examples, but they can play occupations such as a fireman, doctor, cowboy or policeman.