BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It’s a quintessential fall evening in this eastside Bloomington neighborhood. People walk their dogs, children play basketball in the driveway and the Smith-Robbins-Bell household is decked out for Halloween.
“This is your best year ever,” a passer-by tells homeowner and decorating mastermind Sarah Smith-Robbins.
“You’re really raising the bar,” she laughs in response.
This year, the circus comes to town at 2513 Rechter Road. Each of the seven clowns has a name. They are: Tutti-Frutti, Huggy, Mitzey, Bernie, Purple Kiss Clown, Killer Clown and Ticket Master.
For the past six years, the family has transformed the yard into a spectacle all in the name of Halloween. Past themes include “invasion of the candy snatchers,” where aliens are depicted abducting humans, and “evil candy,” where figures look like they’re licking on a lollipop head. No matter the theme, the process takes months to sketch, plan, sew and bring to life.
The family chose “carnevil” for this year.
“On Halloween night (the year before), when we sit inside and wait for trick-or-treaters, we talk about the next year’s theme,” Smith-Robbins said. “We didn’t know that ‘It’ was coming out when we picked circus, and when we found out, we thought, ‘Oh, yeah, that works.'”
In addition to the seven clowns, the display features an 8-foot ringmaster and his tutu-wearing gorilla companion, along with two monkeys.
All 11 figures are made out of recycled and reused goods.
“We try to recycle as much as possible, because we’re making a lot of stuff,” said Mark Bell, Smith-Robbins’ husband.
“I think the only thing that we have this year that is store-bought is his (the Killer Clown) outfit and hat,” Smith-Robbins said. “Everything else is made from scratch.”
And they work with what materials and scraps are available. To make the “carnevil” come to life, Smith-Robbins tinkered with PVC pipe to create the skeletons of the 11 figures, sculpted and dipped their heads in latex, glued their hair (pool noodles) together, filled their bellies with grocery bags and sewed their clothes from curtains and scraps of material from last year. Her husband and three children help with brainstorming the characters and assist with the lights and movements, making the figures motion-sensored this year.
“Mom just gets better every year, honestly,” said daughter Teagan Robbins, a sophomore at Harmony School. “She just learns more and more. It’s great because throughout the year she makes these discoveries on new ways she can use things, and she just gets so excited about it.”
By day, Smith-Robbins is an adjunct lecturer at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, but when she comes home, she goes into her two-car garage to tinker and create a whole other world.
“During the day, I sit at a desk or teach a class,” she said. “This is completely different, and I come home and do something like this, and it’s a change of pace. It’s good for your brain.”
The Halloween display isn’t just relegated to the garage. Clowns for this year’s display were inside their home for months before they headed outside for all to see.
The family emphasizes that they tend to steer clear of any blood or gore when creating their figures, recognizing that the neighborhood they live in is full of children and the point is not to scare them, but to simply have fun with the holiday.
“We’ve always kept it pretty tame, and we’ve always had that philosophy from the very beginning of that we’re not going to be blood and guts,” Bell said. “That’s fun if you don’t have a neighborhood of kids, but we do.”
The family predicts they will hand out about 250 goodie bags filled with candy, pencils and a clown nose to match the theme to children brave enough to walk past the motion-sensored clowns. Spooky circus music, lights and a fog machine will add to the drama of the scene on Halloween night.
But by 6 p.m. the next day, the clowns will be gone and picked apart for next year’s theme, which will likely be decided by that time.
“We try to have fun with it and have a little bit of attitude,” Smith-Robbins said. “For me, it’s an excuse to make cool stuff, and you can put it out and people can enjoy it.”
“It’s Halloween every day here,” Teagan said smiling.
Source: The (Bloomington) Herald Times
Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com
This is an Indiana Exchange story shared by The (Bloomington) Herald Times.