Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hanna's Start

Stockton Record

Hanna Banana



Financial adversity brought Karen Smith and Hanna Banana together.

 Karen’s husband, Gordon, was among the air controllers fired at Stockton Metropolitan Airport two years ago, and he couldn’t find another job.

 “I had to make money,” she says, “I sat down and evaluated what skills I had. I really liked kids and I used to put on programs when I was a Boy Scout leader for four years and when I taught Sunday school.”

 When she decided to become Hanna Banana, party impresario, she set some bard and fast rules for her new enterprise.

 “It was going to be good, clean fun – no offcolor jokes.” The formula paid off. Hanna Banana, a winsome clown with a banana painted on one cheek and a heart on the other, is in constant demand, especially by youth groups and families. 

 “When we go to a family party, we paint everybody’s face,” says Smith. “We have cake-eating contests and bob for apples. It’s old-fashioned fun. We just have a ball.”

On New Year’s Day, Hanna Banana and company entertained 150 members of the Lodi Boys Club. “We painted up the director and bopped him on the head with confetti-filled eggs,” she says “the kids went crazy.”

Smith also portrays several of Comedienne Carol Burnett’s characters.

The Smiths’ offspring – David, 10; Lisa, 5; and Jeremy, 4 – join the act when needed.

Smith’s husband is now a driver with United Parcel Service, but she is having too much fun to give up Hanna Banana. In fact, she now has a trademark on the appealing little character for possible future commercial use.

Terri Ross sums up how she, Powers and Smith, feel about their careers: “We’re dealing in memories. We’re giving people something they won’t ever give forget.”

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