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Camp aims to lift clown frowns during slow economy

Grant Hindsley / AP

Julie Varholdt, or "Lovely Buttons" the clown, teaches a course on how clowns can entertain with everyday objects in a pinch at the third annual Clown Campin' in Ontario, Calif. All photos taken on July 31, 2012 and made available to NBC News on August 14, 2012.

The Associated Press reports from Ontario, Calif. — Even when she's not in character, Julie Varholdt acts like a buffoon.

Bring up professional clowning, however, and the mother of three decked out in cartoon-sized purple buttons, a red straw hat and oversized shoes grows serious — and even sheds a few real tears.

"Clowning is an art, it is an ancient art," said Varholdt, whose grandfather was a clown. "You can't just pull on a wig and slap a watermelon smile on and — 'Poof!' — you're a clown. Unfortunately, we see it a lot." Read the full story.

Grant Hindsley / AP

Clown shoes are for sale at Jose Morales's, or "Cascarita" the clown's table in the dealer room at the third annual Clown Campin' in Ontario, Calif. The week long event is held for clowns across the United States and Canada to learn, get inspired, and network.

Grant Hindsley / AP

Bob Neil, aka "Kiwi" the clown, gestures after making the finishing touches on his costume.

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