MIDDLETOWN — Is the Jersey Shore in danger of losing another clown?

While the demolition of the Circus Drive-In in Wall left the clown sign standing along Route 35, it's future with the new owners of the property is not clear. Further north on the same road in Middletown, another clown's future is also cloudy.

Calico is a 30-foot  "evil" clown erected in 1955 to promote the Food Circus supermarket where the new Shoppes at Middletown shopping center is being built. It was designed by Leslie Thomas Worth of Road Ad Signs, a company known today as SignAd. Worth also designed Tillie, the iconic Asbury Park face.

The clown has appeared on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno," the Kevin Smith movie "Clerks II" and several music videos.

Margie Rafferty, the creator of the Save Calico, the evil clown of Middletown, NJ Facebook page, told New Jersey 101.5 that he is still standing in front of the Spirits Unlimited store.

"He had a shamrock for St. Patty's Day and now he has a baseball cap with a Budweiser logo for the baseball season," she said.

Rafferty said plans for the shopping center she viewed several years ago showed that Calico needed to be moved to allow for an entrance and exit.

But the ultimate plan for Calico still has to be determined.

Demolition of the Circus Drive-In in Wall Township
(Bud McCormick)

Tara Berson, a spokeswoman for Middletown Township, told New Jersey 101.5 that Township Administrator Anthony P. Mercantante will be meeting with the developer of Shoppes.

"We'll see if it can be tied in to the new shopping center but we don't know anything yet,' Berson said.

Calico is registered with the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office as being eligible for consideration if he were to be nominated as a historic landmark, according to spokesman Larry Hajna. But since the clown is on private property, a historical designation would not necessarily stop him from being taken down.

"It's ingrained in the town, the clown being there. We all grew up in the town with him being there. It's an emotional issue for us and a practical issue for that family," Rafferty said.

Joe Azzalina Jr., former president of Food Circus Super Market and the owners of Spirits Unlimited, said in 2016 that "the clown isn't going anywhere" and expected Calico to be refurbished and moved somewhere on the new shopping center.

The new 340,000 square foot shopping center is scheduled to open in 2020 with a Wegmans supermarket, CMX Cinema and restaurants.

The Circus Drive-In clown, meanwhile, still stands outside the site of the old eatery. It's not known what the new owners will do with the clown.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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