St. Clair Shores residents might have spotted an unusual ride headed toward the city's annual parade, a popular tradition on Memorial Day.

The vehicle, a red 1958 Ford pickup, was loaded with minibikes, flares, water canisters and, most importantly, clowns.

Members of the Detroit Fire Department Clown Team, founded in 1938, were on their way to engage in “clowning,” a term defined as driving the truck, riding minibikes, spraying water, safely carrying a hose with a flare tucked into the end, and purchasing parade-side hot dogs when available. (Preferably with mustard.)

More generally, it involves clowns interacting with the crowd via high-five fakeouts, photos, and hugs.

Luc Wechsung, 26, enjoys clowning and the niche community that likes to help others.

“For me, it’s just a good addition to the job we have. It’s a pretty unique pocket of the fire department. I relate with a lot of these guys, they’re some of my best friends.”

Their truck was donated by Ford Motor Co. The vehicle requires the occasional push to get started, but the team continues to keep it in good condition. The team is hoping to transition to a similar-looking, but better-functioning, truck, and is in the process of making repairs.

The clowns participate in parades but also work with disabled adults, the Detroit Fireman’s Field Day, and other charity events. Joining is voluntary and unpaid. The clowns often use their own money for supplies, but receive a small amount of money from the Detroit Firemen's Fund here and there.

Gerald Stewart, 39, stepped in for Mark Taylor as ringmaster on Monday while Taylor was out of the office.

“We’re kind of like the happy face of the department," said Stewart.

For Stewart and others on the team, it’s about making families and children smile. 

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