“Clowning” Around for Nearly Four Decades

Greenspring’s Kay Cumbie debuted Cricket the Clown in the 1970s

Kay Cumbie as Cricket the Clown(Springfield, Va.) — In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared the first week of August as National Clown Week in the United States.  The recognition has now expanded across the globe and is celebrated as International Clown Week.  It was also during the 1970s that Greenspring resident Kay Cumbie first introduced Cricket the Clown—a character that has been with her for nearly 40 years.

Cumbie first learned about the art of clowning when training was being offered by Northern Virginia Community College.  At the time, she and her husband, a northern Virginia area Baptist pastor and denominational leader, were recent inheritors of an empty nest at home. 

“I was looking for something to do,” said Cumbie.  “It sounded right to me!”

Locally, a Fellowship of Christian Clowns was developed around the same time and thus was born Cricket.  Clowning as Cricket provided Cumbie an outlet and a way to provide volunteer service around the D.C. region.  Cricket attended children’s birthday parties, schools, hospitals,  nursing homes, participated in parades, and became a Halloween sensation at the Cumbie house. 

Cricket’s costume was pieced together using items once belonging to friends and family: the shirt (one of her husband’s old tuxedo shirts), the tailcoat (formerly owned by a friend in her church), the gloves (knitted by her grandmother), and the wig (previously owned by her sister-in-law). 

Kay Cumbie as Cricket the ClownPart of Cumbie’s goal in clowning with Cricket was to help children overcome their apprehension toward clowns.  “Children don’t see clowns as people,” said Cumbie.  She is able to recount a time when a sick child confided in Cricket when he wouldn’t talk to anyone else. 

Cricket moved to Greenspring with Cumbie and has made a few appearances for special community events, but she admits that transforming into Cricket takes so much time, appearances are now more limited.

“You can take anything, just don’t take my sense of humor,” said Cumbie, whose never been afraid to try new things and “sprout new wings.” 

Cumbie is involved with a number of volunteer efforts and clubs at Greenspring.  She’s a member of the Greenspring Players drama group, the PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) chapter at the community, and volunteers to help with efforts at the Treasure Chest, a thrift store operated on campus. 

Greenspring, one of 18 retirement communities managed by Erickson Living, is situated on a scenic 58-acre campus in Springfield, Virginia.  The community is home to nearly 2000 residents, many of whom reside in the community’s 1404 independent living apartment homes.  At Greenspring, over 200 resident-run and resident-driven programs promote an engaged, fulfilling lifestyle reflected in resident satisfaction levels that exceed the industry average.  Additional information about Greenspring can be found at www.ericksonliving.com.