Clown celebrates 80th birthday BIG RAPIDS \u2014 When Rudy Grahek walked into the Comfort Inn and Suites on Saturday, he thought he was meeting his daughter, BethAnn, and her family for dinner. When he was pointed to a banquet room with the words \u201cHappy 80th Birthday\u201d written on a banner over the doorway, he realized many more people had been invited to dinner. \u201cWhen I walked in, for a minute I just couldn\u2019t believe it,\u201d said Grahek, who plays the popular funnyman, Dynamite the Clown. \u201cI thought I was walking into my own funeral, but I was alive.\u201d Around 50 people \u2014 family, fellow clowns, friends and former co-workers \u2014 greeted the 80 year old at a surprise birthday party. Many had travelled from across the state to celebrate the milestone in the life of their favorite clown. \u201cHe\u2019s always clowning around. He\u2019s got 1,001 stories to tell,\u201d said his brother Dick, who lives in the Lansing area. Along with surprising Rudy with a birthday party, the family wanted to make the birthday extra special. They arranged a plane with a banner that said \u201cHappy 80th Birthday Dynamite the Clown\u201d to fly over Big Rapids Saturday around 4:30 p.m., and circle around the hotel. \u201cWhen Beth called me and told me about the birthday party, I thought, \u2018We should arrange an airplane fly-over. He\u2019d go crazy,\u2019\u201d said Rudy\u2019s sister-in-law Jean Grahek, who came from Eaton Rapids for the party. \u201cWe thought somebody would spill the beans, but nobody did.\u201d Seeing his name fly across the sky put a smile on the face of the man who has brought smiles to the faces of many people for decades. Dynamite the Clown performs at more than 50 parades and shows across the state annually, tying balloon animals and cracking jokes in his signature grease paint, ragged clothes and oversized shoes. Though Rudy first became Dynamite the Clown 60 years ago after guest performing with various circus acts, Dick said he has been a clown since he was young. Growing up in Cadillac, the Graheks lived a mile from the fairgrounds. Dick and Rudy would often help set up for the annual fair, but Rudy would stay long hours after Dick went home. \u201cI would come home at 3 p.m. and my mom would say, \u2018Where\u2019s Rudy?\u2019 Then around 2 in the morning he\u2019d come home. I knew right then and there that Rudy was going to be in that line of work,\u201d Dick said. \u201cMy dad always said, \u2018Rudy, you\u2019re going to be a clown someday.\u2019 He was right.\u201d With a three-year age difference between the brothers, Dick said he and Rudy have been close all their lives. As youngsters, he recalls Rudy pinning him on the ground and kissing him, just to irritate him. Now, the brothers engage in more mature fun \u2014 old man jokes. \u201cHe\u2019s a great brother. I\u2019m proud of him,\u201d said Dick, who gave Rudy a T-shirt with a grumpy old man joke on the front for his birthday. \u201cI can\u2019t imagine not having him around.\u201d Rudy\u2019s cousin Sara Hettich said that whether in costume or out, he is the life of the party. She came from Cadillac for his surprise birthday celebration, and said any one-on-one time she spends with her cousin is always a comical experience. \u201cI love going out to coffee with him. He has so many stories,\u201d she said. \u201cHe\u2019s so funny. He keeps everybody laughing.\u201d Hettich, who helps with the annual CAPS Clubhouse carnival in Cadillac, said Rudy gladly offers to entertain students anytime his comedic routine is needed. \u201cWhenever I need him to come volunteer, he\u2019s always there for me,\u201d she said. \u201cHe\u2019s awesome.\u201d From homecoming parades, to carnivals, to performances with the Scottville Clown Band, the octogenarian doesn\u2019t plan on slowing down any time soon. His birthday cake included a picture of him wearing a Ferris Institute jersey that he bought in 1956. The FSU alumnus plans to wear the same jersey when he walks in the university\u2019s homecoming parade in October. \u201cI always say, you\u2019ll know I\u2019ve retired when you read my obituary in the paper,\u201d Rudy said.