CLINTON — Most little boys want to grow up to be firemen or baseball players or astronauts.

Not Merle Trott Jr. He wanted to be a clown, just like his father, Merle Trott Sr., and his uncle Malcolm Trott.

On Saturday morning, Trott Jr. – also known as Tickles the Clown – and four generations of Trott Family Clowns will mark 50 years of marching in the Clinton Lions Agricultural Fair parade.

There will be little ones, big ones, young ones and old ones in the parade, all branches of the Trott family tree that started in 1966 when Merle Sr. and his new wife, Sophia, cut short their honeymoon at Pleasant Pond in Caratunk to join his twin brother, Malcolm, as clowns in the parade.

Trott Jr. was dressed Tuesday in custom-designed clown shoes that lit up, face paint, a garish jacket and tails, lime-green necktie and a tiny little top hat on his bald head. He has been Tickles for 31 years – he even posed for his Lawrence High School yearbook pictures as both Merle and Tickles – and said he has been in the parade all of his 46 years.

“I clash like heck,” he said, referring to his mixed-matched clown garb and oversized shoes made in Chicago. “I love my beautiful, butterfly light-up mini top hat.”

The annual parade starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at Clinton Elementary School, then winds its way to Main Street through downtown, as part of the Clinton Lions Agricultural Fair from Thursday through Sunday.

“We’re going to have 50 clowns in the parade,” Trott Jr. said Tuesday from the Lions Club diner on the midway, where the aroma of beans, onions and salt pork cooking in four large crockpots wafted through the air. “Most of them will be painted. We’re going to have a classic 1966 Volkswagen because my dad and my uncle had a Volkswagen Beetle ever since we can remember.”

There will be three Trott clown floats with the Trotts being the grand marshals for the parade, volunteering their clowning for free.

“It’s going to be a big deal for us,” he said. “It’s exciting. Every time I do this it’s exciting. This is what I grew up to do.”

Fair secretary Buddy Frost said the Trott family – in all their makeup, funny shoes, clown paint and outlandish costumes – are important to the fair’s parade.

“The clowns do very well. They hand out candy, and the kids love them,” Frost said. “I think the clowns have been a big addition to our parade.” The fair, which opened for the first time in 1954, is on fairgrounds on Route 100.

Makayla Bernardini, Trott’s niece from Albion, known as Lovebug the Clown, was dressed Tuesday in a layered tutu, red painted nose, glitter and rainbow eye makeup. She said she has marched in the parade every one of her 19 years. She doesn’t remember the first one.

“It’s just the norm,” she said. “I don’t know anything else.”

Her brother, Merle Sr.’s oldest grandson, Mike Bernardini, 28, said he has been a clown for the parade since he was a baby.

“As I grew up, it was every year,” he said. “It’s good. It’s good to have tradition, and we get to see everyone in the family – all the smiling faces as we walk down the road.”

The parade is like the Trott family reunion, said Trott Jr.”Most people, when they have family reunions, they have barbecues or whatever. We put makeup on and act like fools,” he said.

On Saturday, Ava Ladd and Coralie Spencer of Winslow, both 4 years old, will be clown princesses. They will be joined by brothers and sisters 12, 10 and 8 years old. The youngest clown will be a 2-month-old boy. As far as the public reaction when the Trott Family Clowns parade through downtown Clinton, it’s always the same. “They respond to us like they’re family,” he said, “and that’s how it’s always been and I’m sure that’s how it’s always going to be.”

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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