March 29, 2013

Well-known local clown injured


---- — MORIAH — Children’s entertainer Cathy Sprague says stories that she was driving a clown stunt car that went out of control and crashed into a wall are not true.

It is true that she’s now confined to a recliner in her living room, covered with blankets, her right leg in a cast and propped up to the side.

Sprague, who appears professionally as Penelope the Clown, broke her ankle in three places recently, but it was in her driveway at home in Moriah’s Cheever hamlet.

“I was going to the greenhouse out back. I was running, and it was icy. I slipped and fell, went right down.”


That was on Feb. 22, and she came home for awhile to let the swelling subside, then recently spent a week in CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh for surgery to repair the breaks in her ankle and insert a metal pin for stability.

The day she fell, she was taken by Moriah Ambulance Squad to Elizabethtown Community Hospital, then transferred to CVPH.

Now she’s recuperating at home, sleeping in the chair because she can’t get upstairs to her bedroom, and making balloon animals for children’s parties while she watches TV.

She won’t know until April 4, her next doctor’s appointment, when she can return to her clowning.

“I’m hoping I can get back to work in May,” Cathy said. “I already have contracts all summer. I’m not taking new jobs until I know more.”


She had a clown appearance scheduled for the day after she fell, and her sister, Mary Fielder, volunteered for service.

“She said, ‘I’ll do the job,’” Cathy said. “So at 4 a.m. I was sitting here making 200 balloon animals for her.”

At that point, she had been out of the hospital for only a few hours and was in a lot of pain, Cathy said, but she felt she had to fulfill her contracts.

Mary said she’ll fill in for Penelope as much as possible until the clown can get back to her busy work schedule.

“I became Precious the Clown,” Mary said. “Cathy did my makeup. I put on her costume and wig.”


â–¶lizabeth Sprague, Cathy’s sister-in-law, has been raising money to help pay her medical bills.

“Unfortunately, she does not have medical insurance,” Elizabeth said by email. “Donations toward her hospital bills are being accepted through

“She has committed her life to entertaining children. She is an amazing person who has given to her community unselfishly.

“Now we can help her.”


Cathy has been Penelope the Clown for 34 years — for the Adirondack Railroad, Amtrak, apple orchards in New York and Vermont and at hundreds of other places.

Since she’s been laid up, a steady stream of people has flowed to her house with food and offers of help, Cathy said.

“The people that have come through this door have been amazing. This town has been great. I can’t believe how nice people have been.”

She said Moriah Girl Scouts are coming by April 5 to help plant seeds in the greenhouse operation she runs with her husband, Tim.

“She’s in good spirits,” Tim said. “I’ve been tending to her needs. I have found that her mind is faster than my two legs.”

Cathy said she was hoping people wouldn’t learn exactly how she injured herself.

“I didn’t want people to know how clownish I was. Guess it’s too late for that.”

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Donations to help with Cathy Sprague's medical costs can be made at