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Storytelling for Giving: Fun with Huffy
“The noblest art is that of making others happy.” – P.T. Barnum
For much of his life, Wayne Hoffman has loved being the greatest showman. He was elected the class clown in school, doing pranks and always looking to make others smile. But it wasn’t until he was managing a few restaurants that he stumbled upon what would become part of his life’s work.
It had nothing to do with food, instead, it was nourishment for the soul, making other people smile.
“I was running restaurants and hired this guy, Willy the Clown, who would come in to do balloon night for the kids,” says Wayne. “But Willy suffered a stroke, and he couldn’t do it anymore, so he said, ‘would you like to learn how?’, “I said, sure, and I started doing balloons and magic for the kids, birthday parties, weddings and events like cherry blossom festivals, DJ jobs, tree lighting ceremonies, as well as other events, even wrestling events. I needed a name so I came up with Huffy, like those Huffy bikes. I became Huffy the Clown, then down the road, I got involved in the biker scene.”
And Wayne says he’s never looked back, because for Huffy the Clown, it’s a great ride.
“It all really started in the motorcycle community in 2007, with East Coast Biker magazine. “There was a picture of Norm Keller on the cover, says Wayne. “Norm is the owner and designer of East Coast Biker. The picture was of Norm and a few girls hanging around his bike, and the caption read, I Love My Job. I sent Norm an e-mail with a picture of me as a clown and my bike with a couple of college girls around me and said, I love my job too. He loved it and our relationship blossomed from there.”
Eventually Huffy ended up on the cover of East Coast Biker as well, with a picture of a model and Huffy’s prize possession, his trike, an old school classic trike with a Frankenstein clown-head painted on the front. Wayne calls it The Huffynstein. It’s got a Volkswagen motor, a Suzuki front end, and a 1979 Honda frame. It’s his signature ride and as Wayne says, “it’s a one-of-a-kind.”
Wayne likes to stand out in the crowd. Part of the reason he became a clown was not just his history of antics in high school, but the experience of growing up in Lenkerville, Pennsylvania as part of a big extended family, you had to stand out. “My dad came from a family of 13 kids, my grandmother from a family of 14 kids, we had like three family reunions a year. I have two brothers and a sister and we were a handful. They called us the Lenkerville Hellions because we caused so much trouble.”
Yet Wayne’s mission in life now is to help relieve others of their troubles, by helping them smile, and a nicely crafted balloon can do just that. “When you are a clown you can get away with a lot of different things,” laughs Wayne. “But it’s always about making people happy. At a biker event, we entertain the adult bikers. I go in and ask if they’re old enough for a biker balloon, (which many times are risqué, to say the least), and I can also make a killer motorcycle balloon. I can make a motorcycle out of a single balloon. I once made one for Willy G. Davidson, (the former senior VP and Styling Officer for Harley Davidson). He and his wife Nancy showed up at a show in Hershey, Pennsylvania and he thought the motorcycle balloon was so cool!”
Wayne says it’s a blast doing what he does, and now it’s all in his “free” time, since he retired. “I’m one-of-a-kind entertaining the adult bikers at different events,” says Wayne. “Some promoters don’t get it, but the bikers love it. When you hand a motorcycle balloon to a biker executive and it’s put a big smile on their face, man I must be doing something right! I also entertain at senior centers and help those older adults have fun too.”
And there are still the kids’ shows, in fact, there are now biker shows for the tots. “I’ve emceed a Baby Biker contest,” says Wayne. “Thunder Roads ran that show, it’s cool as hell. You see a 1-1/2-year-old wearing a leather jacket, a bandana, and boots. The people cheer and vote for them. Some of the kids even bring electric motorcycles up on stage. It’s pretty cool to get the youngsters involved too. We need that. A lot of the old school bikers still attend events, but it’s dwindling. The young people are not coming in to replace them, because some can’t afford the Harley’s. Paul Jackson, CEO of Jam-On Productions, is trying to make his shows kid-friendly, so the adults will bring their children and get them engaged and loving the biker community.”
Wayne says events like the Harley Rendezvous Classic in upstate New York is trying to make it work for riders of all eras so they can hang out and enjoy themselves. “They have a big farm and fields and have it sectioned off,” says Wayne. “You have the old school bikers who come with sleeping bags and pillows, and they just sleep under tarps. Then you’ve got the ones who bring tents and another area with bikers who bring their RV’s. You can ride around to each area and see all kinds of different things.”
There are also the Motorcycle Swap Meets. In Maryland, there are some pretty big gatherings in places like Baltimore and Howard County. The Howard County Motorcycle Swap Meet is coming up this Sunday, January 27th at the Howard County Fairgrounds. The Timonium International Motorcycle Show & Swap Meet is happening February 8th, 9th, and 10th at the Timonium Fair Grounds in Baltimore County. This is a family-friendly event with face painters & kid amusements, and of course, Huffy and his balloons and magic to brighten the faces of all who attend.
Wayne says charity events in the biker community are huge and he’s been a part of several, including BACA, Bikers Against Child Abuse International, (https://bacaworld.org/). “These guys and girls raise money and even go into court to support or represent children who have been abused,” says Wayne. “I used to DJ many of those events. It gives you goosebumps to hear the stories of what bikers have done for these families. It’s a really cool group of bikers out there who do a ton of fundraisers to help others. Then there’s also the Biker Breakfasts, the first and third Sundays of each month in Ephrata, PA and Lawn, PA. Both groups raise money for different groups like the VFW and the Lawn Fire Company.”
There’s also the Huffy The Clown bucket list says Wayne, one of those he’s working on right now, an event to take place up in the Catskill Mountains and then there’s attending the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The Sturgis Rally, is the world’s largest motorcycle event, drawing visitors from around the globe for 10 days. About 500,000 people will participate in the rally this year in early August, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Wayne says Sturgis is an event he definitely plans to make happen.
With Wayne now fully retired and turning 65 this year, the question is how long will Huffy The Clown continue to spread his message of fun and hope? Wayne says he has no plans on slowing down. “I will do it as long as I can,” says Wayne. “I want to jack up my trike too, put lights underneath it and maybe get flamethrowers out the back pipes. But what my mission is really about is helping people.”
The clown assumes your humanity. It assumes that, whatever trauma you’ve had, you can still love yourself. – Patch Adams
“I’m not into making a lot of money doing this,” says Wayne. “I’m good if it’s just enough bucks to pay for gas to get to an event, food while I’m there and bring some money back for my woman. My wife doesn’t go to the events, she doesn’t even like motorcycles,” laughs Wayne. “I do this because it’s how I want to live my life, live my dream and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
And why not, because Huffy is all about having fun. (http://www.huffytheclown.com/)
Be sure to stop by the Motorcycle Talks exhibit at the Timonium International Motorcycle Show & Swap Meet February 8th, 9th, and 10th at the Timonium Fair Grounds in Baltimore County.
This story as well as all of the others on our website are written by Mark Brodinsky, an Emmy-Award winning television producer, speaker, popular blogger, and published author. You can find more information about Mark on his website at http://markbrodinsky.life/
Huffy & Sergeant Slaughter
Huffy with Cody & Vinny, Orange County Choppers