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Updated 10:00 AM April 11, 2005




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Spotlight: Clowning around campus with Apple Annie

Judith Dinsmore, a secretary for nine years at U-M-Flint, is known as the person to look for when it comes to applying to the University. She enters applications into the database, writes admit letters and coordinates the schedule for U-M-Flint counselors who visit with graduating high school students.
(Photo courtesy Judith Dinsmore)

What many people do not know is that in her spare time, Dinsmore puts on a clown costume and adopts a totally different personality.

Dinsmore belongs to the El Said Court, one of two Lady Shrine organizations in Michigan. The Shrine organization is centered around 17 Shrine hospitals in the United States that take care of burned and crippled children up to 18 years. All of the money Shrine clowns earn from parades goes to children.

"I think that being a clown makes you appreciate people in their diversity," she says. "Here you are being someone that is not traditional. It's a happy time when you're making people happy."

"I got started because I married a Shriner in 1987. I grew up on an apple farm and my middle name is Anne, so I became Apple Annie," she says. "I chose a costume that has big pockets on the pants with apples in them. I paint apples on my cheeks, and I have long blue eyelashes and hair."

Her theme is carried all the way down to her shoes that have an apple painted on top of each toe. A worm burrows in one apple and emerges from the other. Dinsmore paid $240 for her one-of-a-kind footwear, and has received plenty of compliments on her unusual fashion statement from the shoemaker and her co-workers.

Apart from a wig that can get a bit warm in the summer, Dinsmore says the clown costume actually is very comfortable. Even the big shoes are easy on the feet. It takes about an hour for Dinsmore to put on her make-up, and she has to use six applications of baby shampoo just to get it off. For her, it's well worth the effort.

"It gives me a great deal of satisfaction when I become a clown," she says. "I'm a pretty straight-laced person so it is a way of expressing a different side of me."

In 2001, Dinsmore clowned around for the University's Welcome Back Picnic, which happens every fall. "That year the theme was a birthday party. The students didn't know I was behind the costume. That's the fun part in being a clown; you can hide behind a costume," Dinsmore says.

"In our town (Montrose, Mich.), we have a Blueberry Parade every August. I would go up to people and greet them by name and they would be surprised that I know their names."

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