Clowning Around: Toots in Grand Floral Parade

Pippa and Toots Caboose by Ross William Hamilton/The Oregonian

I think I need to check myself into some kind of recovery program following my experiences as Toots Caboose, a member of the Amtrak Cascades Character Clown Corps for the annual Portland Rose Festival. It's been one of the best experiences of my life. However, I'm a bit melancholy today - perhaps it's clown withdrawal.

Yesterday the Character Clown Corps participated in the Key Bank Grand Floral Parade. It was incredible being a part of the major parade for the 102-year-old Portland tradition.

Dolly, Auguste, Toots Caboose and Donnie with two future clowns in the VIP Area at Memorial Coliseum. Photo from gallery at

Toots and some of his clown pals began the day, early in the morning, entertaining individuals in the VIP area just outside the Memorial Coliseum. After having a photo taken with the just crown Rose Festival Queen Rachel Seeman, and cheering on the thousands of walkers in the Regence Grand Floral Walk, it was time get into position for the 4.5 mile parade. It was exhilarating to be introduced to cheering crowd as we walked through the Coliseum and out onto NE Broadway.

The parade took us south on Martin Luther King Blvd, across the Burnside Bridge and on a winding route through the streets of downtown Portland. The slight drizzle certainly didn't dampen the spirits of the huge crowd lining the streets - estimated by some to be as high as 500,000 people. It was great see so many friends, both adults and kids, cheering us on. Many people were yelling "Toots!" I assume some were familiar with my clown persona due to the recent Just Out article about my clowning experience. I didn't see the "We Love Toots!" sign, but I sure heard about it from my clown friends.

During one pause in the movement of the parade a woman in the audience got my attention. She said, "I want to thank you and all the clowns; you've done a wonderful job."

After completing our parade entertaining, it was great to sit on the curb near Lincoln High School and get to watch part of the beautiful parade. A bit later my partner Ed picked me up and, after I told him I was incredibly hungry, he took me to the Arbor Lodge New Seasons to get a sandwich from the deli. I loved the fact that so many people acted as if it was perfectly normal to see a clown in a grocery store. One woman walked past me, came back and grabbed my arm, and said. "I just walked past a clown. I'm also a clown and it makes me so happy to see you here."

A tired and hungry Toots Caboose waiting for his sandwich at the Arbor Lodge News Seasons Market

The Grand Floral Parade was televised locally by KGW Newschannel 8 and a video clip of the Amtrak Cascades Character Clown Corp is on the station website (right after the commercial). Additional photos are available on my Flickr page.

© 2009 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

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