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Published: Tuesday, 7/16/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

DAZZLING DISPLAY OF DEXTERITY

450 jugglers meet in Bowling Green

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Evan Smith of Columbus rides a unicycle and juggles along with Andres Ramos of Puerto Rico as he balances on a ball during the 66th Annual International Jugglers’ Association Festival at Bowling Green State University. Many of the festival’s events throughout the week are open to the public. Evan Smith of Columbus rides a unicycle and juggles along with Andres Ramos of Puerto Rico as he balances on a ball during the 66th Annual International Jugglers’ Association Festival at Bowling Green State University. Many of the festival’s events throughout the week are open to the public.
THE BLADE/JEFFREY SMITH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

BOWLING GREEN — Life’s a juggling act — go to work, take care of the kids, fix meals, pay bills, do the laundry (and find the missing sock).

And on it goes. So many balls in the air.

In part to relieve stress of day-to-day activities, people from around the world are spending this week at Bowling Green State University’s Perry Field House where bursts of red, green, blue, orange, and yellow pop up, down, and around. In rings that spin, in clubs that flip, in hoops that whirl.

GALLERY: The 66th Annual International Jugglers' Association

It’s a bit of a circus atmosphere with all that juggling going on, but on Tuesday, many participants in the International Jugglers’ Association’s 66th annual Juggling Festival focused intently on tricks and tasks at hand, displaying dazzling speed and dexterity, plus oodles of creativity.

Scott Sorensen, 43, wasn’t clowning around as he juggled nine rings, sending a series of circles into the air at a dizzying pace. Programmer by trade, he performs at festivals and other events in the Austin area where he lives. “I do this for the fun, half professional, half hobby.” He travels across the United States and Europe to attend festivals such as the one in Bowling Green where 450 registered jugglers are fired up — some, literally — by the chance to spend time with what several call “the community.”

Festival volunteer coordinator Dina Scharnhorst, a paramedic who lives near Cincinnati, juggles balls, rings, and clubs (resembling bowling pins), and says the hobby is serious fun, sometimes passed from generation to generation. “My grandfather was a clown in the circus. My father juggled eggs.”

Chelsea Darling of Oakland, a juggler and vendor, said juggling is popular for many reasons: stress reliever; fun way to exercise; great opportunity to spend time with others with like interests. She spins wire whips of fire. She eats fire.

John Gunderman of Los Angeles balances clubs on his nose during the 66th annual International Jugglers’ Association Festival at Bowling Green State University. John Gunderman of Los Angeles balances clubs on his nose during the 66th annual International Jugglers’ Association Festival at Bowling Green State University.
THE BLADE/JEFFREY SMITH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

On Tuesday night, a highlight was a fire juggle outside the Perry Field House. Many events throughout the week are open to the public; some special activities require purchase of a ticket. The festival, featuring shows, competitions, workshops, and special events, ends Sunday.

Wearing a “Watch for falling props” T-shirt, Rob Suderman, 23, a graduate student in Ontario, said juggling is a nice distraction from his studies. He noted novice jugglers often start out tossing balls into the air. It’s easy, he said, and inexpensive. But then some quickly levitate to more complicated props.

Juggling is a very old art, several participants said, and perhaps surprisingly in this social media world, jugglers at the festival include many youngsters.

Greg Phillips, 48, of Kingston, Ontario, a former director for the International Jugglers’ Association, said there’s some magic going on as kids are pulled into juggling by the coolness factor found online in YouTube videos.

One of the coolest: award-winning Wes Peden, 23, who grew up in Rochester, N.Y., where he learned to juggle at the age of 5. “My dad was a juggler. We would create our own tricks,” said Mr. Peden who attended a circus university. That was in Sweden where he now lives. He has performed in 18 countries. At the festival this week, he’s a magnet, attracting teenagers eager to spend a few minutes with him. So, he’s famous? Well, he says, “I am in juggling circles.”

Michael Conrad, 19, president of the BGSU juggling club, said his interest in juggling cropped up out of boredom.

“I learned how to juggle during a layover at an airport. My mom taught me. It was one of the fun skills she knew from Girl Scouts.” They weren’t, obviously, traveling with any real juggling props. Rather, they used scarves, scrunched into balls.

For those with a combination of skills, say, running and juggling, there’s something known as joggling.

Lutheran pastor Mike Hout, 60, of Miamisburg, Ohio, grew up in the track and field world and when he heard about people who run and juggle, he was hooked — even to the point of juggling bowling balls while running and juggling while jumping hurdles. He holds International Jugglers’ Association world records for joggling, including records for joggling backward. So the pastor is a wee bit competitive? Amen to that.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.



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