Colorado History

Grampa Jerry's Clown Museum Folds Up Its Tent in Arriba

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, Our Journey is back with suggestions for what to do "off the beaten trail" on Colorado's central plains, "just outside your back door," says the site. "Whether you enjoy photography as an artistic medium or as a hobby, there are plenty of subjects for you in Cheyenne, Elbert, Kit Carson and Lincoln counties. If you are intrigued by the past, local history museums and great antiquing opportunities are just some of the fun you’ll encounter along the way."

One thing you won't encounter: Grampa Jerry's Clown Museum. That amusement mainstay in the town of Arriba has folded up its little tent. "It all began with a few clowns (13) in 1986 in Sterling, Colorado," explained "Grampa" Jerry Eder, in a guide to his museum. "In 1990 I met Dale Ann and things went crazy. From there, collecting became a disease." Soon the Eder collection of clown figures had grown to over 3,000 items, and in 2001 the couple moved to Arriba, taking the clown collection with them and stashing it in a pink-shingled shed by the house that they opened to the public, calling it "the largest collection of its kind in such a small building." 

The artifacts included everything from clowns painted on black velvet, a clown painted on a chalkboard that "Grampa" got when he was just a kid, and even a clown made from a hairball taken from the stomach of a butchered cow. The place was so packed that Eder had plans to expand in order to accommodate both the growing collection and a roster of visitors that included the real Bozo the Clown.

But he didn't get the chance. Eder died in 2010, and while Dale Ann ran the museum for a while, last year she closed up shop and moved to Texas.

While you won't be able to clown around in Arriba during your journey to the plains this summer, there are plenty of other sights to see — and admission is free to many museums this weekend. Find out more here — and see what you missed at Grampa Jerry's below.
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun