Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

Tears of a clown: Largo, clown group are on outs

LARGO — They won't be clowning around this weekend in Largo.

Seriously, this is no laughing matter. There will be a lack of clowns at the 19th annual Touch-a-Truck event from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Largo Central Park. Usually there are more than 100 clowns at the popular event, where thousands of children climb into fire engines and ambulances and bucket trucks, honking the horns and running the sirens.

Why the change? It's because Uptown Clowns, a local nonprofit group that supples all those clowns, got into a tiff with the city of Largo. They've put down the grease paint and the red rubber noses, and they're walking away in their oversized shoes.

"So, why aren't there any clowns? The answer unfortunately comes down to dollars and cents," Uptown Clowns business manager Dick Carmen wrote in an open letter to the public.

In its defense, the city says these clowns have been getting a sweetheart deal for too long.

The dispute is about rental fees.

For many years, the group has held a state clown convention called Florida Clown Day at the Largo Cultural Center on the same day that Touch-a-Truck is held in the park next door.

Up to 150 clowns would show up. The group would get a room at the cultural center for free in exchange for providing clowns for Touch-a-Truck, where they would paint kids' faces, do magic tricks and make balloon animals.

But last year, Largo charged the group $1,519 for its use of city facilities for Clown Day. The same fees would have applied this year. The clowns say they can't afford the city's "exorbitant" fees and that Largo is breaking an 18-year-old agreement.

"We've attempted to resolve these issues with city officials," Carmen wrote. "However, our concerns have fallen on deaf ears with feelings of anger, sorrow and disappointment."

City officials say Largo never had a formal agreement with the clowns. Back when Largo Central Park opened in 1996, the city waived fees for various groups to "jump-start" events at the park, said Joan Byrne, Largo's recreation, parks and arts director.

"Over the years … the clown group came to enjoy special treatment that frankly was not in line with the fee ordinance nor with the treatment of any other group partnering with the city," Byrne wrote to the City Commission.

The Uptown Clowns made money on Clown Day through vendor fees and food concessions. "The Florida Clown Day event brings minimal benefit to the Touch-a-Truck event but huge benefits to the clown organization," Byrne wrote. "They are looking for the city to waive all of their fees so that they could do a fundraiser that benefits the Uptown Clowns."

So this year, Florida Clown Day will be held Feb. 1 at Lakewood United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg.

This year's Largo Touch-a-Truck will still have a few clowns, and some new wrinkles: a big sand pile with toy trucks and a sheriff's helicopter will land at 1 p.m. The event is moving on without the Uptown Clowns.

"I think we'll be okay without them," said Jessica Newsome, Largo's special events coordinator. "We'll have a few clowns doing face painting and balloon animals. Instead of 150 clowns, it's going to be three."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151.

Comments
Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

A record-breaking number of Americans are expected to travel this holiday season.The American Automobile Association projects that 107.3 million Americans will pack their bags and travel more than 50 miles by planes, trains, automobiles and other mod...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Pinellas judge: U.S. Army major found incompetent to stand trial can leave Florida

Pinellas judge: U.S. Army major found incompetent to stand trial can leave Florida

LARGO — A Pinellas circuit judge ruled this week that Roman Izzo, a U.S. Army major charged with murder but found incompetent to stand trial after he was injured in a motorcycle crash, can move to Kansas with his family.Izzo was released on $1.5 mill...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bob’s Carpet and Flooring heir was source of family strife before arrest

Bob’s Carpet and Flooring heir was source of family strife before arrest

An heir to a local flooring company charged with failing to report the death of a young woman last year has a troubled criminal history and was a source of strife in his family business, according to court records.Robert Butler III, 52, was arrested ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Horrified friends watch screaming woman driven to her death in Plant City

Horrified friends watch screaming woman driven to her death in Plant City

PLANT CITY — Jonathon Adams heard a scream, "like a dog getting run over by a car," then saw a minivan come tearing around the corner with a woman he knew dangling out of the passenger side.It was the start of a deadly sequence of events Dec. 8 that ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Column: Tax reform is the right path forward for Florida

In Washington, the tax reform process continues to move steadily forward, increasing the likelihood that Floridians will be able to keep more of their own money next year. While it has been the subject of a great deal of criticism (and outright misle...
Updated: 2 hours ago
NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Carson Wentz's injury drops Eagles out of top five

NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Carson Wentz's injury drops Eagles out of top five

What follows below is a ranking of all 32 NFL teams. To build this list, we consulted five objective measures of team strength: Pro Football Reference’s Simple Rating System, Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average ratings...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Dade City man turns himself in on warrants for Polk armed robbery

Dade City man turns himself in on warrants for Polk armed robbery

DADE CITY — A 25-year-old man wanted in connection with the attempted robbery of a taxi driver in Lakeland turned himself in late Wednesday night after being prompted by his mother, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Edner Dely of Dade Ci...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Local widowers say baby powder caused their wives’ cancer

Local widowers say baby powder caused their wives’ cancer

Two Tampa area widowers whose wives died of ovarian cancer are suing Johnson & Johnson, joining nearly 5,000 other plaintiffs across the country who blame their illness on the daily use of the pharmaceutical company’s talcum powder.Bryan Isa’s wife, ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lawsuit attempts to end conversion therapy ban in Tampa

Lawsuit attempts to end conversion therapy ban in Tampa

TAMPA — A conservative advocacy group is asking a federal court to overturn Tampa’s ban on conversion therapy for minors.The City Council approved an ordinance in March that bars the controversial practice, which tries to change a person’s sexual ori...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Jabil’s fiscal results top Wall Street expectations

Jabil’s fiscal results top Wall Street expectations

ST. PETERSBURG — Jabil Circuit Inc. beat Wall Street expectations for both profits and revenue Thursday.The St. Petersburg-based contract electronics manufacturer — one of Tampa Bay’s biggest public companies — posted fiscal first-quarter earnings of...
Updated: 4 hours ago