The Kansas State Fair is over, but one man stays behind. His name is J.B. Holdren, but no one calls him that. He has always been known as Bardo The Clown. He is so attached to the fairgrounds, he never leaves. His history is in many ways the history of the fair itself.
Bardo is older and slower these days, but still so much a part of the Kansas State Fair.
“My dad told me when I was real small that I was put on this earth to help make people happy. And I’ve been trying," he says. “I’ve been doing this since I was 10 or 12 years old. It just came natural.”
Bardo isn’t just a clown; he is a sign painter, master craftsman, artist and carver for all of his public life.
“I should have told you like I told a guy the other day, he said how long have you been doing this and I said who do you think put the name on Noah’s Ark?
Most of the signs at the state fair, Bardo still paints with help from his staff.
“This is kind of like old home week. Kids who saw me when they were real young are now bringing their grandkids back to see me.”
At the 2008 fair he was there, just off the midway, selling many of his carved artworks and remembering his rich history.
“I’ve had happiness," Bardo says. "I’ve had fortune and I’ve had tragedy and I can associate with almost anyone.”
His paint shop today is full of yesterday’s posters and pictures. A wealth of restored circus artwork from a man who has been part of circuses and carnivals forever.
“I was 120 years old last December and if you believe that you have to know that I lie a lot too.”
When the fair packs up and everyone leaves, one person stays. Bardo is the only full time resident of the Kansas State Fairgrounds. He lives in an RV and works out of his paint shop on the fairgrounds 365 days a year.
“The great spirit gave me more talent than I deserve.”
When Bardo shows you a glimpse into his past life, he’s not boasting…it’s just fact. This man of the midway has lived several lifetimes in greasepaint.
Bardo can be tough and he can be tender and those who know him have seen both sides. But everyone knows Bardo sticks by one essential truth.
“We definitely believe that we were put on this earth to make people happy.”