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Weary Willie Day celebrates Weary Willie, a sad hobo clown that was played by Emmett Kelly, who was born on this day in 1898. Originally a trapeze artist and cartoonist, Kelly performed as a white face clown in the 1920s, before switching to Weary Willie in the early 1930s. He had come up with the hobo clown idea about a decade before, but it was not until the Great Depression that he was able to persuade management to allow him to fully make the switch. His routine as a melancholy hobo clown contrasted him with the white face slapstick clowns of the period, and he was popular for decades. He performed with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1942 to 1956, and in some film and Broadway roles. He was at the historic Hartford circus fire of July 6, 1944, where 167 people died. It is said that this is the one time that he could be seen shedding real tears.

How to Observe

Celebrate the day by dressing up like Weary Willie or another clown. Watch some of Weary Willie's appearances on television or film such as his appearance on What's My Line? or The Greatest Show on Earth. Plan a visit to the Emmett Kelly Museum, or to the International Clown Hall of Fame or International Circus Hall of Fame—both of which Emmett Kelly was inducted into.

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