Visit the Klown Doll Museum, the odd attraction by the Nebraska Highway



Come in. Nothing to fear. | Photo courtesy of Corrine Janovec

Come in. Nothing to fear. | Photo courtesy of Corrine Janovec

Stretching from Boston, Massachusetts to Newport, Oregon, Historic Route 20 is the longest route in the United States (nickname: “Big Daddy”). It stretches 3,365 miles from coast to coast, crossing 12 states. You’ll pass the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park and, if you wish, the Idaho Potato Museum.

And just off the freeway in Plainview, Nebraska, you’ll come across a white and red building topped with a red tiled roof, adorned with stenciled letters and a few painted clowns. Near the entrance, you’re greeted by Stumpy, a fat, eight-foot-tall joker wearing suspenders with polka-dot pants and cut in – what else? – a tree trunk. This is the Klown doll museum. If you’re prone to coulrophobia, you should probably keep driving.

Clowns exist to spread joy. Do you feel cheerful? | Flickr / orientalization

The town of Plainview – 1,398 people – is sort of a hot spot for big feet, red noses and probably those flowers that throw your eyes in your eyes. They’ve been hosting an iteration of their annual Klown Festival since the 1950s, featuring the polka styles of a costumed Klown band.

But the Klown Doll Museum started quite naturally just a few decades ago, when a secretary of the Chamber of Commerce was offered a clown figure. Not knowing what to do with it, she displayed it in her office window.

“Someone noticed him and gave him another clown,” says Corrine Janovec, a volunteer at the museum since 2000. She talks to me from her restaurant one block away, Serendipity, where the menu is what she has. want to cook that day. “People then thought she liked clowns, so she ended up with a lot. “

The museum opened in 1987, with an extension in 2007 and another in progress. The dolls, it seems, keep coming. Today at the Klown Doll Museum you’ll find over 8,000 figurines, from Ronald McDonald to Raggedy Ann, ceramic, plush and everything in between.

The Plainview Klown Band still performs to this day. | Photo courtesy of Corrine Janovec

All of the clowns were donated, including large collections like the one donated by retired professional clown Mattie Vanderpool, who had 1,500 sitting in his South Dakota home.

Janovec’s favorites are the Great Depression Tramp figures Emmett Kelly “Weary Willie”. Wanda Retlasf, waitress at Serendipity and another Klown Doll Museum volunteer, favors a small figurine that you could easily ignore. “He’s a little clown that looks like ceramics, but he’s made of the ashes of Mount St. Helens.”

But let’s put that aside: the museum isn’t meant to be scary. “We don’t have scary clowns. We refuse to send scary clowns to the Klown Doll Museum, ”explains Janovec. No, no Chucky, none of that.

So if you get goosebumps, it’s your turn apparently. But you are not alone. “We have people in town who have never been there because they are afraid of clowns,” Retlasf says.

Not everyone likes’ ol Stumpy either. “Someone put a rope around him and pulled him onto Highway 20,” Janovec said. “It’s amazing because it’s a big trunk, it’s very heavy. They must have worked really hard and got really mad at the Klown Doll Museum for doing this. “

They look good. | Flickr / orientalization

Besides the Klown doll museum, there is not much to do in Plainview. If you want a cinema or a bowling alley, it’s 35 minutes to Norfolk. Occasionally, the Highway 20 Hotrod Association will host an auto and motorcycle show. “They transport them here, they park them in upscale neighborhoods and we watch them,” explains Janovec. And the old Railroad Depot museum from 1880 currently has an exhibit on the film. Nebraska, which was partially filmed in town.

The Klown Festival still takes place every June, with parades (“It’s Nebraska so there are tractors,” Janovec says), a red nose hunt, carnival games, and entertainment by the Klown Band. still active. Janovec and Wendy are members. The costume is the one that suits your personality – Janovec’s is pink and blouson, with ruffles – and anyone can join if they play an instrument. But “if you read music, that would be good”.

As for the Klown Doll Museum, the venue is completely free and run by volunteers, who lovingly dust the displays and sell items in the gift shop (the clowns themselves are not for sale). From Memorial Day to Labor Day, they are open from 1 pm to 4:30 pm Otherwise, you can call and make an appointment.

“I’m always surprised how many people come to see us in winter,” says Janovec. “We’re trying to keep the temperature cooler for the utilities” – which are paid for by the city – “so we always say, ‘Well you can come and see but it’s a little chilly, keep your coat on!’ And they to do! “

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist’s Senior Travel Editor. She thinks that clowns have mostly good intentions. Unless of course they’re John Wayne Gacy.


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