Cascadia Juggling Festival
by Charmie Gholson
It didn't take long for me to rule out attempting to juggle anything at the juggling festival. I generally duck when things are flying toward me. Besides, I went to the festival to people-watch. I wasn't disappointed. Lots of people (male and female, young and old) were attempting to juggle a variety of items everything from kids tossing big clubs back and forth and laughing as they dropped to a very serious couple who alternately juggled and then critiqued each other. They were so silent and focused as to be almost grim. Nearby, a group of little kids, laughing hysterically, bounced themselves off enormous balls as big as they were. I considered joining in, but I didn't want to scare them.
The prop vendors down on the main floor have really cool toys I've not seen anywhere else: those plates you spin on a rod, the "diablo" or devil stick that gets tossed back and forth between two other sticks, and a peacock feather for balancing practice (on your finger or nose or elbow or wherever you like), along with information about societies for magicians and clubs for clowns and my personal favorite books about fire eating and sword swallowing. I didn't actually see any fire eaters or sword swallowers, but I did see folks riding unicycles, people wearing balloon animal hats, one guy riding a bizarre contraption called a "pedalo," and a group of guys from the Troy Area Yo-Yo Club who carried their yo-yos in specialized shiny silver cases and wielded them like Jedi knights with light sabers.
Even though the general feeling here is joyous and playful, the grim couple revealed another side an element of determination, of striving to get better, to learn tricks, to show off skills. "Juggling is great. It's a stress reliever," a handsome thirty-something told me while tossing his clubs. "It teaches you how to not give up. This is not just a desperate
attempt to cling to our youth. It's a good form of exercise, mental exercise as well as physical. I haven't seen a juggler bite it yet, although I have seen them do some stupid things."
I'd have to agree with that. Earlier, I'd seen a fella balance a pole on his forehead with a bucket on top. His buddies were tossing Ping-Pong balls into that bucket with their mouths. They called it "mouth propelling." I call it hilarious.
The Ann Arbor Juggling Arts Club holds its annual Cascadia Festival at the Wide World Sports Center on Friday and Saturday, May 13 and 14.
[Originally published in May, 2005.]