BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – It’s been 45 years, and he started just clownin’ around after a couple of tours in Vietnam.
“Shoeloose” the Clown has been seen in a variety of places lately, most recently the opening of the Fareway Grocery in Fort Madison on Wednesday and then showed up to lead the Fort Madison Middle School band later that day.
“Shoeloose”, a.k.a Gregg Brockman, said Wednesday morning while he crashed that Fareway opening, that even some of his costumes, although buttoned up and always perfect for the occasion are almost as old as the gig.
“I was thinking just the other day, I’ve been doing this for 45 years and some of these costumes are just that old,” Brockman said, wearing his formal attire. A jacket suit and shorts with orange rainbow socks and orange floppy tennis shoes tied at both ends. Yeah…and a red nose.
As the ribbon-cutting at Fareway came to a close and after a few rope tricks, Brockman grabbed his friend ‘Ottie the Gooney Bird’ and went back to shopping.
Shoeloose said Ottie, who was propped up on a brand new Fareway shopping cart, had already been down the bird seed aisle and snarfed down a bag of seeds.
After the event, he made his way over to the Fort Madison Middle School, picked up the marching band leaders septer and led the band off the property to 48th Street.
According to Gregg’s wife Beverly, the antics started 45 years ago on a Friday night before the rodeo parade and some friends were at the former Holiday Inn in Fort Madison listening to a band. They invited the band to ride in a float in the parade and when everyone showed up Saturday morning in cowboy attire, Gregg showed up in a clown’s suit.
He took a board and chained it to the back of the hayrack float used for the band in the parade and rode that board along the parade route over the top of all things left in the road… by the horses.
Since then Shoeloose has ridden outhouses, water skies, whisky barrel bath tubs and in 2000 rode in a covered wagon with no wheels just three months off a quadruple bypass. He was also hauled in the “Throne” in 2005 when he was named Grand Marshall of the parade.
The “clowning around”, which is still seen at the Grand Entries at each Rodeo event in September, became a family affair when the couple’s children Nathan and Corrine began performing with their father and at times several of the grandchildren have joined in on the fun. Gregg’s brother-in-law Michael Manka has also joined in on the fun at times, too.
For the past 19 years, Brockman has also served as the “clown greeter” at the Rodeo for an hour or two before each event and then works the grandstand and rodeo areas.
For the 45th anniversary, many of Brockman’s friends and family will join him in the parade, included with a special float for this year’s parade, there will also be a few more “surprises.”