I hate clowns. Let’s just start with that. I don’t trust them, That mistrust began at my friend Laura’s fifth birthday party, where a clown claimed to pull money out of my ear. I knew better. The mistrust grew as my parents teased that they would take my brother and me to Vegas and leave us at Circus Circus while they gambled. They even brought us brochures, where clowns were spawning by painting the faces of innocent children.
That was all before I was aware of John Wayne Gacy or Pennywise or the Killer Klowns from Outer Space.
With that out of the way, I respect the hell out of Grampa Jerry’s Clown Museum in Arriba, Colo. Located between the Kanorado, Kan., and Limon, Colorado along Interstate 70, the tiny town of Arriba feels like a one-horse town that’s missing its horse. Grampa Jerry is Jerry Eder, and he’s no longer with us. His granddaughter, Tessa Ann Zink keeps the dream alive, though.
Despite not having paved roads, the town has a gas station, a town hall, a history museum and – most importantly for our purposes today – a clown museum.
Grampa Jerry’s Clown Museum is at 22 Lincoln Ave., just a couple of turns off the highway and in what appears to be the backyard of a house marked by a couple clown standees near the driveway.
It looks like the back yard, because it IS the back yard of Grampa Jerry’s granddaughter, who happens to own the gas station at the base of the highway exit. Good thing it’s close, because if the museum is locked, you’ll need to go ask her for the key at the gas station. We had read on another site that we needed to get the key from the historical museum, but they directed us to the gas station, giving us a nice tour of Arriba and a thick coat of dust on the car.
The amusing scavenger hunt was worth it.
Inside the small museum shed are thousands of clown items. Clown statues, clown mugs, clown toys, clown lamps, clown figurines, clown picture frames and clown cookie jars were impossibly packed from wall to wall and floor to ceiling.
So how can a guy with a dislike for clowns like and respect a place like this?
A shack filled with clowns in the middle of nowhere that you can only open with a key quest is creepy on the face of it, but it’s actually a touching tribute to a passed grandfather. The clown collection went from a small group of 13 clown items and grew with family support. Jerry’s partner Dale encouraged and supported the collection. His brother was its largest contributor. Family friends added to the collection, as well. Granddaughter Tessa named the place.
After Eder died, his granddaughter has kept the place open – and free to visitors who can find it. She’s clearly proud to share the legacy and happy to talk about the collection. And when she talks about Grampa Jerry, you can tell how much she misses him.
So while the site may seem like a wacky and quintessential roadside attraction – pure Americana – it’s actually a shrine to a family and the hobby that brought them together in joy.
And you have to respect the hell out of that.