TRAVERSE CITY — Dynamite the Clown has a million and one shticks, all involving suitcases.
“Do you want to see my box of tricks,” he’ll say to a kid along the parade route. He grins, opens his suitcase and pulls out a cereal box of Trix.
“We just love seeing people laugh,” said Rudy Grahek, 80, on behalf of clowns everywhere. “Because people are so sober, so stressed-looking nowadays. If we can do anything crazy to make them laugh, it makes us laugh.”
Today Grahek will set aside his suitcase — all 28 of them — to ride as grand marshal of the National Cherry Festival Junior Royale Parade.
“As a marshal, I’m going to ride in a convertible,” he said. “I’ve got to ride, that parade is too long. It’s like starting in Saginaw and ending up in Manitowoc, Wisc. I’ll do a wave and meet and greet, just like the queen.”
Gary Kaberle, a past festival president, said it was his idea to invite Grahek to serve as grand marshal.
Kaberle surprised Grahek with the news about a month ago, when he showed up at his home in Paris, outside of Reed City, ostensibly to shoot photos of him with National Cherry Festival queen Meg Howard. Grahek opened the official invitation and teared up.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a clown cry,” Kaberle said. “You can tell it really touched him.”
Kaberle met Grahek when he’d come into his parents’ restaurant and gift shop in Paris. Kaberle later moved to Traverse City and became involved with the National Cherry Festival in the mid-1970s.
“Rudy was always there. He’s the hardest-working person I know,” he said. “This is a guy who’s making all these people happy, and now he’ll be celebrated.”