the lure of the top shelf teddy…

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27/03/2011 by Sarah Ritchie

Clowns at the fair Sarah Ritchie

Recently I came across these “Laughing Clowns” at a local country fair. I was amazed that – after 35 years+ – this particular sideshow attraction still exists!

I remember the clowns being my favourite fairground ‘must do’ as a child, recalling the thrill of being handed a tiny box of crayons, or a small toy for my efforts.

It’s easy to believe that the “bait” for the attraction is that row of oscillating, garish, ugly clowns. Though they have the regalia of appealing primary colours, the opportunity of ping-pong ball-popping their gaping mouths is not the lure. No, no. The lure is the row of cute, cuddly, oversized teddy bears on the top shelf (you know, the kind you can only win in the movies).

It reminds me of the weekly New Zealand Lotto draw. The lure is the “top shelf carrot” of “14 million dollars + prizes” that you “could” win on a Saturday night. The punters dutifully line up at the Lotto counter to get their ticket which might – at best – give them the return of a small amount of cash…or, more likely, nothing.

It is sad to think that we are training children, from a young age, to buy into the concept of the “top shelf teddy” – something they could win for minimal effort. Dare I say it, the “G” word (“gambling”) concept can start young, whether we realise it, or not. Teaching our kids to hand over their (or their parent’s) money in the hope of winning the big prize that will very seldom materialise.

The only difference, with the laughing clowns, is that “everyone’s a winner“…especially the sideshow operator.


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