EDMONDS — Some people say any clown can be a politician, but it took politicians to get a clown on a license plate.
What’s up with that?
The new specialty plate with Washington’s beloved clown J.P. Patches required passing a bill in both the state House and Senate, then having the governor sign it.
Talk about an ordeal. Not only that, it took three tries and six years to get the Patches Pal plate through the Legislature.
“This year was probably going to be our last attempt,” said Curt Hanks, who designed the plate and oversees the official J.P. Patches site, jppatches.com. “Thankfully, it did get through and everybody is happy.”
Happy as a clown.
The state offers over 50 special plates that include the military, sports teams, schools, parks, firefighters, farmers, elk, orcas, the state flower and square dancers. Also new this year is a wine plate … without the cheese.
Compare that to Texas, which has several hundred specialty plate options, including Smokey Bear, honey bees, “God bless Texas” and “Texas. It’s Like a Whole Other Country.”
But no clowns.
J.P. Patches and his sidekick, Gertrude, were a mainstay for generations in Washington. Both adorn the plate.
“The J.P. Patches Show” aired from 1958 to 1981 on KIRO-TV. Young fans were called “Patches Pals.”
Chris Wedes was the man with the painted face and patched jacket. He lived in Edmonds and died in July 2012 at age 84. Bob Newman, who played Gertrude, died in 2020.
The Patches Pal license plate effort began in 2016 by backers Erik Madsen, Chris Rimple and Eve Kopp. They got 3,500 signatures and raised the $7,427 required to start the application process for a new plate into the state system.
That was the easy part.
The group had to find an elected official to turn it into a bill.
“When it came time, we had to reach out and find someone. We reached out to quite a few,” Hanks said.
State Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, was a sponsor for the plate during the three tries in the Legislature, each time with bipartisan support.
Lovick introduced Senate Bill 5741 for the Patches Pal plate in January 2022. This time, it passed 86-11 in the House and 46-3 in the Senate. Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill in March.
Specialty plates must support a cause.
Proceeds from the Patches Pal license plate go to Seattle Children’s Hospital cancer immunotherapy research. J.P. Patches and Gertrude regularly visited kids at the hospital.
The first 25 Patches Pal plate numbers were allotted to the group. An online auction for 20 of the coveted low-number plates in July raised over $20,000 for Seattle Children’s. Top bid was $2,330 for the plate JP00008.
Lovick has the JP00003 tag.
Hanks, who has JP00002, designs J.P. Patches items such as lunchboxes and bobbleheads for his employer, novelty giant Archie McPhee, which is headquartered in Mukilteo and has a store in Seattle.
Hanks, 54, is among the many who grew up a “Patches Pal” and never outgrew it.
“He was just so down-to-earth. He didn’t speak down to kids,” he said. “It wasn’t all staged. It was honest.”
John Landis has been excited about getting a J.P. Patches plate for months.
“He was my friend for many years,” said Landis, a retired Everett Comcast producer who worked with Wedes on special projects. “He was funny, oh my gosh, it was never ending. He loved those kids to come see him.”
This is the first specialty plate Landis ever ordered. He’s 85.
“I’m waiting for it,” he said. “Every day I go out there looking in the mailbox.”
Initial cost of the plate is $157.25 for a car and $156.50 for a truck. A motorcycle is $75.25. Plate renewal fees are extra.
More at dol.wa.gov.
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; email@example.com; Twitter: @reporterbrown.
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