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Spreading the laughter: Ringling Bros. advance clown troupe visits local libraries

Staff Photo: Deanna Allen. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey clown Mike Richter finally gets his book right side up before reading the story, "Olivia Saves the Circus," to children gathered at the Gwinnett County Public Library's Collins Hill branch Wednesday morning.

Staff Photo: Deanna Allen. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey clown Mike Richter finally gets his book right side up before reading the story, "Olivia Saves the Circus," to children gathered at the Gwinnett County Public Library's Collins Hill branch Wednesday morning.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Ryan McCoy adjusted the big, red clown nose he had attached to his own Wednesday morning.

The 3-year-old was waiting to see someone with a nose that matched.

"Dada afraid of clowns," Ryan said, after tucking his red nose into his mother's purse for safe keeping. But Ryan doesn't feel the same.

"Clowns are funny," he said.

The laughter of other children gathered at the Collins Hill library branch Wednesday morning was proof of their agreement as they enjoyed the antics of one of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's official envoys.

While libraries are usually quiet places where patrons talk in low voices or whisper to others, the Collins Hill branch was filled with loud, uproarious laughter as circus clown Mike Richter teetered on his unicycle, almost running face first into a bookshelf. The almost run-in prompted him to shriek in fright, which incited even more laughter.

Richter, 23, is a member of Ringling's advance clown troupe, traveling to cities ahead of the circus to herald its arrival. While promoting the upcoming circus show Zing Zang Zoom, which will arrive in Atlanta on Feb. 12, Richter was also encouraging reading. He had arrived at the library carrying a large duffel bag filled with colorful rings and white juggling pins, as well as a copy of Ian Falconer's children's book, "Olivia Saves the Circus," in which a pig named Olivia becomes a circus star.

"I like 'Olivia Saves the Circus' because the child pig is the star," Richter said. "It's a very approachable age range for a character. Preschool kids can relate all the way up to say, fourth and fifth-graders. The older the kids get, if they get a little lost on the story or they think they're too old for it, then they'll definitely have a lot of fun with the antics I add to it."

Wednesday morning's special event was certainly a laughing matter, and the laughter is expected to continue today as Richter makes a second appearance, this time at the Five Forks branch. Each child who attends will receive a voucher good for a free admission to the circus with the purchase of an adult ticket.

For more information on today's event, which begins at 11 a.m., call 770-978-5154 or visit www.gwinnettpl.org.