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From charity to entertainment, Tosafest fits all

Judges Heidi Huse and Chris Prissel from the Firefly Bar & Grill try one of the 18 chilis brought to the chili cookoff at the Chancery restaurant Saturday during Tosafest.

Judges Heidi Huse and Chris Prissel from the Firefly Bar & Grill try one of the 18 chilis brought to the chili cookoff at the Chancery restaurant Saturday during Tosafest. Photo By unknown

Sept. 12, 2012

Wauwatosa residents went out in the rain and sun for this year's Tosafest. The largest festival held by Wauwatosa showcased bands, performers, clowns, a charity fundraiser run by firefighters, a skateboard competition, and a chili/cupcake bake-off, among many other things.

If you've walked the boardwalk you've seen these every year, but what goes on behind the scenes and what does it take to organize these events? Below are three stories told by the organizers and entertainers who make Tosafest what it is.

Bingo The Magical Clown

Rick Allen was contracted to do balloon animals at Tosafest. Allen has been in the clown business in the Milwaukee area for about 30 years.

Allen said, "I can do a dog, cat, lion, elephant, monkey, lamb, ram, giraffe, turtle, penguin, Snoopy with his goggles on, swan. I can make any one of those a singular animal or into a nice decorative hat. I can make a flower. I can make a cowboy hat. If there's a lot of kids at an event, I'm going to make it simple. Nobody likes it when one kid gets fifteen balloons on their head and others don't get much."

Allen is a professional children's entertainer. When he's not Bingo the Clown, he's Mr. Rick, a day-care entertainer. When he's not Mr. Rick, he's Rick Allen, a magician who performs educational magic shows.

While some clowns go to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, Allen did not. He tried submitting an application to the college for an audition and waited to hear back from them.

The day he heard back from them was the day he left to join the U.S. Army. When Allen returned he taught himself magic and how to be a clown and has been in the clown business ever since.

Allen said, "I think clowns are pretty happy people and I love being a clown. What I love most about being a clown is the effect it brings on kids. What I like about performing for kids is that they're totally honest. If they like you, they'll tell you."

Third Annual Ramp Jam

Tosa Skateboarders United (TSU) had their first-ever competition at Tosafest. Although this was their third Ramp Jam, this was their third competition, the first two at other venues..

The competition was broken into four divisions: beginner, intermediate, advanced, and over 18. Skateboarders helped set up the event, work with AV equipment and set up the music.

Prizes donated by CSS, a mail-order skate shop in Wausau, were awarded for first through third place winners. The goal of the event was to educate the community on skateboarding and the skatepark that TSU is trying to build.

Judy Doyle, board member of TSU, said "When we first started out we tried to convince people that skateboarding was a great activity. Now we have so many people saying 'when are you going to build it?' The attitude has totally changed."

Firefighters raise money, remember 9/11

The piece of steel rotating on a platform at Tosafest was not your ordinary rusty I-beam. It was a piece of the World Trade Center donated to the Wauwatosa Fire Department from the New York Port Authority.

The Fire Department operated a booth to raise money for the USO and Jason Moon's Warrior Songs, a nonprofit that seeks to heal, with music, veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Jason Moon, a Milwaukee native, is a veteran, folk music writer, performer and activist. The firefighters shared the stage with the USO pinup girls' kissing booth and charged for a dunk-tank.

Dan Shepard, a firefighter who owns the dunk-tank and helped coordinate the event, said, "All that's for charity. It's an event to get together and to have camaraderie, but it's important to give to charity. Most firefighters get into the profession because they like serving. What better way to help others than to give to charity?"

The firefighters held a flag-raising vigil to remember the lives lost on 9/11.

Since 2003, the firefighters have raised between $65,000 and $70,000 for charities. The charities are selected by the executive board and change each year.

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