Assembly of Awesome 2012 Review

The Assembly of Awesome held its inaugural event on August 31 through September 2nd, 2012 at the Maumee Soccer Center in Maumee, Ohio. The idea behind the event was an ambitious and interesting one, serving not just as a juggling event, but as a collaborative festival between all types of performance art (the press release listed arts ranging from baton twirling to ventriloquism) and all things “awesome.” The goal of this was to allow festival goers to meet new people and learn new things that they wouldn’t normally see outside their normal niche convention.

Sample official membership card from the event.

Once you arrived at the convention, you were issued an official Assembly of Awesome membership card, which served as your door pass throughout the convention as well as provided a neat memento from the event. In addition to having your basic information, it also had a section for “skills/superpowers” which allowed attendees to write in the skills they were proficient in, or just to put funny text in. The inside of the practice space was two soccer fields, a large one that was used as the main practice space, and a smaller one that was utilized for a few special activities. Electronic music was streamed over the speaker system throughout the event.

In addition to a fairly large setup of raffle prizes, there were several vendors present as well, including Superior Performance Juggling, which sold mainly chain mail juggling equipment, and Gballz who were selling their signature beanbags. The most interesting table setup however, was David Cain’s newly unveiled Historical Juggling Props exhibit. The mobile museum featured props on display from juggling legends such as Lottie Brunn, Bobby May, and Albert Lucas, along with props from more contemporary jugglers like Jason Garfield, Niels Duinker, and David Ferman. In addition to props used by jugglers of note, the exhibit also featured juggling props that were historical in and of themselves, such as Edward Van Wyck’s hollow wooden juggling club, which was the first commercially available club made for juggling (starting around 1895), fiberglass clubs, and rattan clubs used by the Philippine Pride Jugglers.

Early juggling clubs from David Cain’s Historical Juggling Props Exhibit.

Performers’ props from David Cain’s Historical Juggling Props Exhibit.

Though there was no workshop schedule announced in advance, there was a piece of paper posted on the wall where festival goers could sign up to teach workshops throughout the festival. Several that transpired were three ball tricks, beginners hula hooping, and card throwing.

One of the games that was promoted for the convention was the Unicycle Jousting League. In this event, participants put on armored gear, get atop a unicycle, and ride at each other with foam lances, trying to knock the other person down. The idea was a creative one, but sounded rather risky and ultimately, the execution of this activity did not go well. There were very few attendees that were proficient enough on a unicycle that were willing to pad up and attack another person for the game. The first round saw the lances repeatedly breaking off, and by the second match, someone had already gotten injured during a fall, which spelled the end of the competition. Combat and a few other games were also played on the smaller field throughout the convention.

Three person steals and passing at the Renegade Show.

Three person steals and passing at the Renegade Show.

Unicycle jousting.

It was previously announced online that a Renegade show would likely take place at a nearby comedy club, but that did not happen. However, an impromptu Renegade show did end up taking place at the practice area. The show was well received and featured performances pieces such as BMX stunts, three person club passing/steals, acrobatics, and parkour. Festival organizer Cameron Mcewen performed his mental floss routine, which involved pulling a long balloon out of an extra-large floss container, blowing up part of it, and stringing it through his nose and out his mouth while alternating the inflated part between the two. After successfully grossing out much of the audience, he then went on to perform some contact juggling. Chuck Clark finished up the show acts by balancing a pole on his chin, and tossing a hat up to catch atop the pole, while telling a dirty joke to the audience. After that, the floor was opened up to any additional feats anyone in attendance wanted to perform.

The facilities were open all night, so essentially the festival was 50 hours of open juggling with a few loosely scheduled events all under the same roof. Attendance was a little low, and while there were some fringe arts represented, the festival was attended almost entirely by toss jugglers. If the event returns for future years, it will be interesting to see how it grows and if it continues to pursue the same collaborative model.

Paul Moran balances a jumble of chairs on his chin during the Renegade show’s open floor.

Nathan Wakefield

Nathan is a juggler from Southeast Michigan. He first learned to juggle in college, and has written for the website Streetjuggling.com. Currently, he is The Chairman of the International Jugglers' Association. When he is not frantically trying to learn new manipulation skills, he enjoys producing music, acting, and watching horror films.

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