Photo by Frank Prager
Linda Fergurson, as her alter ego Jo Jo The Clown, leads children during a parade at an Alton Muny Concert.
ALTON — There is a quote that says “the true measure of your success is the joy you bring to children.” By that yardstick, Linda Fergurson is one of the most successful people you will ever meet.
Born and raised in Alton, Fergurson and her high school sweetheart, Mike, have been married for 41 years. She met him in theater activities when they both attended Alton Senior High School. The couple has five children and 18 grandchildren.
Her legacy of bringing joy to children began when she sang with the Alton Muny Band in 1972 while still in high school.
“The band manager at the time was the youth leader at my church and asked me to perform as a guest soloist,” she explains.
That summer, the clown who entertained at band concerts was on vacation. Fergurson filled in when asked if she would like to make $10 doing the job. The next year she took the role of Jo Jo The Clown as a full-time position, and the rest is history.
Ever since then, except for a hiatus from 1978 to 1982, she has played the colorful role of Jo Jo for the band performances every summer. This past year was the 38th year audiences were treated to her signature introduction call: “yoo hoo!”
“I make friends with the kids at the concert and make sure they do not get distracted during the performance,” she notes.
She says it’s not the type of activity a person does for the money.
“You have to love kids,” she says.
Her other duty is to lead the children’s parade.
“One song in every concert is designated as the children’s song and I lead the children in a parade during it,” she says.
She performs as Jo Jo at the annual Lucy Haskell birthday party and also marches in the Memorial Day Parade every year.
“It satisfies the thespian in me,” she observes.
Interested in theater and performing since her school days, Fergurson also performs at the Alton Little Theater. Her husband, Mike, has been the sound engineer for the Alton Muny Band for more than 25 years. Together they are mainstays of the organization.
She laughs as she notes that her children used to be embarrassed by her antics when they were little but are proud of her now. She points out she does not really have to act while performing the role.
“I entertain with my personality,” she says.
Fergurson has also had a full-time “real” job, working for a local pediatrician for the past 26 years. She is an avid quilter and active in her church. In addition, her family is a central part of her life.
“We get together every Sunday for dinner,” she says.
She points out she is as old as Disneyland, having been born the year it opened in 1955. Turning 60 next month, Fergurson has no plans to stop performing.
“I’m going to keep going as long as my hips hold out,” she says, chuckling.
The many children she has brought joy to over the years certainly hope Jo Jo The Clown keeps going for a very long time.