Even when they’re off duty, no red noses or gargantuan shoes in sight, Terry Donaldson sometimes forgets she’s talking to Denis Martinez rather than Ravioli the Clown.

Better to call her husband by his stage name at home than his real name onstage, she figures. They can’t allow reality to slip into the enchanted world they build for children as Sparkles and Ravioli, partners in clowning — and in life.

The married entertainers spend their lives split between two realms, and inevitably they blend together. Even the painted cheeks and rainbow-ribbon hair seem perfectly ordinary. As Ravioli put it, sitting beneath the big top tent on Friday, “We see through the makeup.”

He and Sparkles made their joint debut at the Teton County Fair this year, but Ravioli performed alone the year before. In 2018 he covered for his ill predecessor, Pippi, and the fair board asked him to return. The California clown gladly obliged.

“I came last year as sort of a gift to my friend,” he said, “and I got the gift of Teton County, and the most amazing, beautiful innocence of the children.”

This time he brought Sparkles with him, and they’ll be back again in 2020. The two spent the weekend strolling the fairgrounds, making balloon animals and generally mystifying their young audiences.

Sparkles the Clown

Nothing is too ridiculous for Sparkles the Clown.

Both were originally solo acts, with their own individual sets, and they still sometimes struggle not to overpower each other.

“It’s not easy, because we’re very strong characters,” Ravioli said. “I could take the room, she could take the room. It’s hard when there’s two people taking the room different ways.”

But they’ve found ways to avoid stepping on each other’s toes. Having performed together since the early 2000s, they have plenty of practice balancing their zany personalities.

“We have the same focus point,” Ravioli said. “We want children to feel the magic of their imagination. My biggest wish is for everybody to feel like a star.”

Though they’ve joined forces to achieve that goal, they came across the idea independently.

In his pre-clowning days Ravioli taught drama and improv to special needs adults. When a Ringling Brothers clowning group came to work with the class, the professionals could tell he was one of them. Soon he was performing for audiences of 5,000-plus people.

Sparkles stumbled into clowning — literally — at the age of 47, when she donned a costume and pretended she couldn’t Rollerblade during a Fourth of July parade in her hometown of Tracy, California. She would crash comically, legs up in the air, and onlookers would laugh with joy.

“The proverbial light bulb came on,” she said.

They met through an annual clown convention (how else?) in Palo Alto, California. They began referring gigs to each other, then began taking gigs together, then married — twice. Once as Sparkles and Ravioli and again the next month as Terry Donaldson and Denis Martinez.

Sparkles and Ravioli

Ravioli the Clown, left, filled in for another clown who couldn’t make her gig last year at the Teton County Fair due to an illness. This year, Ravioli brought his clown partner, Sparkles, his real-life wife, to entertain fairgoers this year as a duo.

Now, some 15 years into what Ravioli calls their “marriage and merger,” they fear the profession is becoming a lost art.

The institutions are still there — the schools of clownology and circus arts, the World Clown Association and Clowns of America International (both of which display photos of their executives in full clown attire).

But as popular culture ties the clown image more and more to creepy, bloodthirsty characters like Pennywise from “It,” demand for their services drops. Sparkles said the Stephen King movie and the real-life clown terrorizers it inspired weren’t kind to business.

She and Ravioli have added other characters to their repertoire, from elves to wizards to magicians, “to meet people’s needs who don’t like clowns.” They’ve also toned down their standard outfits, and consider themselves less “tricked out” than the average fair clown.

But details aside, their work is always based on the same objective: getting people to smile. And they can’t imagine doing anything else.

“Life is too short to be in jobs that you’re not loving,” Sparkles said. “I had 50 different jobs before I became a clown, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I realized later, I didn’t want to grow up.”