"We do this as an alternative teaching method for the kids," firefighter and clown ringleader John "Bullseye the Clown" Paschal said. "It brings fire safety down to their level and makes it fun."
Beginning in the 1980s after the clown program in Florida extended to Georgia, the bright faces virtually disappeared over the years from the schools. That involvement was revived when Paschal joined the force seven years ago and has expanded to include nine clowns.
Friday's performance also included firefighters from the Rockmart Fire Department to assist Cartersville clowns in their outreach to the students.
Under the leadership of firefighter Joe Hill, who provides instructional guidance throughout the program, the clowns find themselves getting into trouble and sharing with the young children the proper ways to get out of a burning home and the dangers of playing with fire.
Laughter echoed throughout the school's gym as students shouted out correct fire safety and emergency answers as the clowns played with phones, lit a fire and ran away from a firefighter dressed in full gear.
"Do we need to be afraid of him when he looks like this?" Hill asked the students, receiving a resounding response of "No!"
The educational tactic E.D.I.T.H -- Exit Drills In The Home -- are utilized as volunteers are selected from the audience to play the roles of a closed door, window, mailbox, smoke detector and someone escaping from a burning home. In the skit, the smoke alarm beeps, the door is unable to be opened, and the child must crawl out of the window -- which, in Friday's performance, entailed crawling through a fellow student's legs to portray exiting the window -- and meet at the mailbox, a common meeting place for families when the home is overwhelmed by smoke or flames.
To become a clown for the department, firefighters must complete a 40-hour training course where they learn the different manners of approaching children in a fun, but educational, environment. In the class they learn how to put on make-up, make balloons, act out skits and puppet shows and work alongside Freddy the robotic fire truck.
"When these kids see me walking down the halls or in a parade, they'll call out my name," Paschal said. "They remember this."