Thunder Bay’s Klown Band - spreading joy and laughter for over 70 years

June 2017

The Klown Band has been going strong since the early 40’s, and there is a reason for that! I attended two performances, and they were pure magic!

There was a happy buzz of anticipation as the Klown Band set up their instruments, organized their sheet music, and did the sound checks. The clowns moved through the audience, greeting folks, laughing and as Rhonda Tetreault aka “Lucky” said, “The clowns spread joy and smiles, enriching life with clowning fun.”
Lynne Peters, the MC, who is also on percussion, keeps the performance moving along with encouraging invitations to sing along, to dance and to have fun. She adds some humour with jokes that she tosses back and forth with Cy Zurba aka “Silly Cy “ on accordion, who has been part of the Klown Band for 30 + years.

The programme offers a delightful variety of music ranging from “You Are My Sunshine” to “Roll out the Barrel” to “Paper Roses” and “May I Have This Dance”. There are saxophone instrumentals performed by Bill Towell and Stan Werbowetski, the musical director, who also plays the clarinet, directs and composes all of the musical programs for the band.

The audiences that I observed at Hogarth-Riverview and Leila Greco were totally enthralled with the music and the clowns. People were clapping and tapping in time, and some were dancing and singing. It was heartwarming to witness. One of the clowns, Pat Kinner aka “ Sunshine “said, “I have a passion for entertaining with the Klown Band. It spreads so much joy, making everyone smile. The music brings back happy memories.”

Jacquie Soulias aka “ Moonbeam” and her mom Millie Wallace, who is 86 years old, sang together, plus Millie played the trombone, something she’s been doing for over 76 years. Jacquie summed it up by saying, “Music is amazing!”

The late Harvey Smyth, one of the original members, maintained all the documents and history of the band, much of which is on display at the Elks Hall Club Room. It is a rich and happy history of a band that can certainly be considered a Thunder Bay institution.

Along with Stan and Cy, another long standing member of the Klown Band is Audrey Kornylo (percussion) who has been performing with the band for over 32 years. In that esteemed group is Maynard Merits, a former bass player with the band. The roster continues with Albert Budiselic (guitar), Judy Pinner (keyboard), Pat Towell (piano/vocal), Ray Turgeon (violin), Bruce McLean (drums), Bill Heibine (bass), John Garland and Gord Pinner (sound techs). The clowns that I saw perform were: Jacqui Soulias (vocal), Pat Kinner (vocal), Rhonda Tetreault , Lynne Peters aka Twiddle Dee Dee and Marilyn Porter aka Sweetpea. There are more clowns who perform with the band, and also the Thunder Bay Clown Band regularly assists with their participation.

The Klown Band entertains at most of the long term care homes from September to June. They perform at Christmas parties around the town and at many other events. This talented group of musicians and performers have “…come a long way from playing kazoos and washboards.”
Catch a performance of the Klown Band; they are a Thunder Bay treasure!

The music was fantastic and the band offers a Big Band sound as well. If you are interested in booking the band or volunteering as a musician (instrumental or vocal), performing as a clown or working with the sound techs, give Lynne a call at 622-5592.

Karen Christie is a retired high school teacher and a regular contributor to Bayview. She can be reached at

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