A smile spreads across a young girl's face as Yancy leans in for a hug. Nearby, a boy waves his arms in excitement as he toots Danno's gold, glinty horn.
Whether entertaining kids with special needs, or mingling with the crowd at a church picnic, Danno and Yancy have a gift for light-hearted fun that's downright contagious.
“Seeing joy and smiles and happiness around you” is very rewarding, says Long Grove, IA, corn and soybean farmer Dan Urmie, a.k.a. Danno. Several times each year, Dan and his wife, Nancy (Yancy), don rainbow-colored costumes, funny blue and yellow hair and bright red noses to perform as volunteer clowns.
They say clowning provides a nice break from the daily farming routine and is a pastime they can enjoy together. Their daughter Samantha tags along sometimes to help out or pass out treats.
Nancy got into clowning soon after the couple married in 1989. She convinced the normally reserved Dan to give it a try when she needed help entertaining at the local county fair. Immediately, he was hooked. “I enjoyed watching other people enjoy what we were doing,” recalls Dan. “When you are a clown, you can see how happy people can be.”
The couple, who have not had any formal clown schooling, are reluctant to call themselves performers because they don't make balloon sculptures or do magic or other special tricks. “We just kind of make it up as we go and if people get a giggle out of it, we do it again,” says Dan.
Nancy sometimes thinks they should work on improving their act. Dan replies, “She is the one who says, ‘we need to rehearse our routine’ and I'm the one who says, ‘we have no routine.’”
Perhaps — unless you count the importance of routinely making people smile and laugh.