By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
BLOOMSBURG — A crowd formed quickly to watch the clown get dunked.
“I’m Bobo the water clown, I’ve come to your boring town,” he chanted to onlookers, perched in his dunk tank at the Bloomsburg Fair’s midway carnival section.
“Where’d you pick that guy up, honey? Wal-Mart?” he jeered at a passing young couple. “I hear they don’t refund ugly.”
Sure enough, the young man chuckled and paid a nearby attendant a few dollars to throw some baseballs at a painted bullseye, in the hopes he could knock the clown into the drink.
He missed, Bobo snickered, and soon enough another contender came up to try and get the last laugh on the clown.
This is all just another working day for Chad Turley. Turley is one of three clowns who play the role of “Bobo the Insult Clown” throughout the day at the Bloomsburg Fair. There are even more Bobo dunk tanks franchised to fairs across the country, with several performers making a career out of the role. One of Turley’s co-workers, currently in his 30s, has been playing Bobo since he was 12.
And while Turley’s new to the role, he’s found it has grown on him.
“You get paid good and you get to make fun of everybody,” he said.
Turley is originally from Benton, Ill., and it was at a festival in that state that he first met the Bobo clowns, who told him they were hiring. He didn’t expect to end up traveling from state to state, fair to fair, as a clown, but he needed a job and took them up on the offer.
Like most of the Bobos, Turley started as a counterman, collecting money, handing out balls and getting used to talking with people. He then got promoted to the position of Bobo. “It’s been fun ever since,” he said.
While other Bobo performers have been to the fair before, Turley has just started in the role, making the Bloomsburg Fair his first chance to literally get his feet wet.
There are several thousand gallons of water in the dunk tank he sits above, and its all cold. “I’m still shivering,” Turley said, shortly after climbing down from the tank. He wears a wetsuit under his shirt and pants, which helps keep him warm.
On Saturday, his shift lasted six hours, part of which he had to spend in the rain. The dunk tank closed up early that day because the weather kept people away from the fair.
Bobos who aren’t on duty can sleep in a trailer behind the tank, where bunk beds are set up.
The Bobos keep their material PG-rated, and while most people realize the insults are all in good fun, there’s always the risk of rubbing a customer the wrong way. Turley has heard stories of angry players who come around behind the tank to try and get back at a Bobo performer. One clown in Illinois even had a lemon thrown at him by an irate fair-goer.
The next stop for Turley’s group is Georgia. They’ll pack up and leave Saturday, the same night the Bloomsburg Fair closes for the year.
The Bobos are allowed to go home whenever they want for family time, which is good for Turley because he has a son in Illinois. He hopes to take him along when his group goes to Florida later this year.
The Bloomsburg Fair, at the fairgrounds off Route 11, runs this week through Saturday.