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The Emmett Kelly Clown Festival in Houston will host two dynamic special guests for the weekend of April 28-30. 

This festival honors the life of Emmett Kelly Sr., who was a clown widely recognized for his hobo character “Weary Willie.” While most clowns were known for their funny antics, Kelly’s sad clown character became popular during the Great Depression because he connected with the many downtrodden and poor people who struggled during this difficult time.  He spent his youth living on a farm near Houston and it was here that his artistic side emerged.  His daughter, Stasia Kelly, and circus historian, Chris Berry, will be here to share stories, show video and get acquainted with the Houston community. 

This year is a revival of the festival after it paused for several years.

Stasia Kelly

Stasia Kelly is as at-home in the public eye as she is on a circus back lot or in the forests of Georgia.  As eldest daughter of the world-famous sad-faced clown, Emmett Kelly Sr., she grew up around show business, enjoyed a career in broadcasting and live entertainment, and took her creative skills to a public relations home in Georgia’s forest products industry.

She was born in Sarasota, Fla., where her mother, Evi, resides today. Stasia lives in Atlanta, Ga., where her two sons, Zachary, 29 and Max, 26, also live. Stasia has enjoyed a varied career in the field of communications and currently serves in media relations for the Georgia Forestry Commission.

Chris Berry

Chris Berry’s two passions are broadcasting and the circus — though not necessarily in that order. Growing up just outside of Sarasota, Fla., he had the opportunity at an early age to meet some of the great circus stars of the 20th century and the fire was lit. His interest in circus history blossomed as he was mentored by some of the most respected circus historians of the time. After a career with CBS and ABC where he held executive positions in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York and Chicago – he now is an executive vice president at iHeartMedia where he divides his time between gathering and distributing the news of today, and the studying the history of the circus in America.

Brenda Senter, volunteer for this event, said, “This is so exciting to have Stasia and Chris here to share stories, show video and highlight a great part of history for Houston.”

For more information on the weekend, activities to meet the guests or to have them speak in your school or organization, contact Shannon Jordan at City of Houston, 417-967-3349, or email at

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