A Message from the Chair, September 2012


We meet again! On the heels of the August board meeting, I’m once again checking in to catch you up on goings on within the IJA.

Festival business. I’m happy to announce that Kim Laird has taken on the job of Festival Coordinator for the 2013 festival at Bowling Green State University. She’s already hard at work, and recently completed a site visit. Like those who visited the site before her, she came away very impressed and excited for the possibilities. Kim is trying to line up special guests, working on transportation options, and bringing on other volunteers to help her with the daunting job of planning the festival. Just 10 more months… Between the time I wrote this article and got it published, Kim wrote an article here with more details. Meanwhile, Mike Sullivan is on the road investigating options for 2014. Nothing is agreed upon at this time, but we’re definitely continuing to explore campus and other non-traditional arrangements in addition to the convention center festivals that have been prevalent in recent years.

The Vendor Discount Program. In Winston-Salem, we announced that this program would be returning soon, and so it will. At that time we announced that we had commitments from Bodyhoops.com, Brontosaurus Balls, Dube, Gballz, Juggling Fashion, The Juggling School, Neon Husky, Sportco, and Sweets Kendamas. Since the festival, we’ve also gotten commitment from Pass the Props and Malabares to participate in the program. I’m trying to pull together technical details from these various advertisers, and expect to have the program live for our members to use in the next few weeks. All vendors may not be available at the time of launch, but I expect at least 6 or 7 will be. Do you have another vendor you want to see on that list? Chances are we approached them, but by all means give us that feedback. And the next time you speak with them or do business with them, drop our name and remind them they’re always welcome…

The response to HEPTAD by Wes Peden was enthusiastic. Based on the traffic we saw and the feedback we heard, our members were big fans. We hear you, and hope to have more IJA member-exclusive videos coming up in the future. If you aren’t yet a member and were considering joining, now would be a good time. Ask a member who has seen HEPTAD, and I suspect they’ll tell you the same.

In our board meeting, we were happy to approve several volunteers for important positions within the organization. New board member Scott Krause will be taking on the role of treasurer – thanks, Scott! Warren Hammond, veteran of two Fun Fund Committees, will be chairing the Fun Fund for the Bowling Green fest. If you’re interested in helping on the Fun Fund Committee this year, drop him an e-mail. I participated in the Rochester Fun Fund Committee; it was an interesting and fun way to get involved in the IJA. And congrats and thanks to Jek Kelly, who will be Awards Committee Chairman for the 2013 Festival.

As the guy who ran workshops in Winston-Salem, I can also take a moment to summarize the feedback you gave us via our survey. 47 of you responded, and nobody on the whole rated the overall workshop quality below “good”; whew… A fair number of our volunteer instructors were singled out as doing a particularly great job; special thanks and respect to Freddy Kenton, Gypsy Geoff, Doug Sayers, Tony Steinbach, Jacky Levy, and Ted Joblin. Huge props to all our new friends from Ea Eo, whose workshops got rave reviews all over the place. I had asked how you felt about leaving the noon hour free from workshops; 24 people liked that strategy, 15 were indifferent, and 6 of you didn’t like it. So more good than bad. I had also asked for input on the series of discussion/lecture workshops we did. 18 people liked them, 23 were indifferent, and 4 people didn’t attend them or didn’t like them. Again, not too shabby. There were several questions about the Guidebook Mobile App we made available. It was used by about 1/3 of the festival goers, and the feedback was almost uniformly positive. Of respondents, 11 thought it was awesome, 7 thought it was good,  1 thought it was kinda meh, and 1 person disliked the idea enough that they refused to download it. There was some good feedback on how the app could have been improved, and I’ve shared some of those ideas with the Guidebook team. Since we paid them $0, I figured we could at least give them constructive feedback. Very few respondents attended the Pavel special workshop, but the few who responded had good to very good things to say. So all in all, good stuff. Responses to a few specific pieces of feedback that might interest others:

  • There were a few requests to have duplicate sessions of workshops. This is a good idea on the surface, but is tricky. Our volunteers may or may not be interested in spending more of their time teaching the same workshop again. Some of the comments mentioned that they missed a workshop due to conflicts; we made a greater effort than usual to not have workshops conflict with other events. By the time the dust cleared, we had 5 or 6 workshops running simultaneously in every slot. Having duplicate workshops might have raised that to 6 or 7. But for the sake of completeness, several workshops were taught multiple times, usually by request. In fact, I can’t remember any time a volunteer was asked to teach a workshop a second time and declined. Doing these by request may be a good way to balance the burden on our volunteers with the interests of the attendees.
  • There were a few very valid comments that it would have helped to have more workshop descriptions in the program. Certainly that would have helped, but that also doesn’t come without cost. With the huge number of workshops we had, if we had included workshop descriptions in the program, it could easily have doubled the size and cost of the program. The mobile app was intended to help with this problem; it avoids the printing cost problem, so any workshop descriptions I was provided were available within the application. But of course not everyone used the app. Money always makes things more complicated.
  • A few people expressed interest in breakout sessions. This was a rookie mistake on my part. It wasn’t something I personally thought of, but after a few people mentioned it in the survey, the point is duly noted. I’ll be doing workshops again for Bowling Green, so I’ll keep this in mind.

All in all, it was the first time I’ve organized workshops, and I’m happy with how it went. But I appreciate the comments and feedback; room to grow for next year. If I get an army of incredible volunteers like I had this year, we’ll make them even better for the 2013 fest.

And before I wrap things up, I at least wanted to make mention of the passing of Robert Nelson. When I was first becoming infatuated with juggling in my youth, I knew of  The Butterfly Man, but wasn’t lucky enough to know him. I read “Passing the Hat“, learned of this larger-than-life man, and his famous piece of poetry stuck with me enough that I could more or less recite it from memory 25 years later. It has been really touching to see the outpouring of emotion and reminiscence in the juggling community in the last week or so. We should all be so lucky as to touch so many people so deeply throughout our lives. A friend of mine in college used to say, “Everything we do in life, good or bad, we do for the story. No matter what, you have a story you can tell afterwards.” I really wish I’d gotten back into juggling a few years earlier and had a chance to actually meet the man and legend, because it seems just about everyone who did has a story (or stories) to tell. That’s a beautiful thing. My condolences go out to his family and to all of those in our community that are hurting from loss right now; we can all honor what he believed in by throwing a few things in the air, having a good laugh, and reflecting on his famous piece of juggling poetry:

It matters not
The job you’ve got
As long as you do it well.
Things are made by plans well-laid;
The test of time will tell.
But how can you count
Or know the amount
Or the value of a man?
By the show displayed,
Or the beauty made
By the touch of the juggler’s hand.

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Dave returned to the world of juggling in 2010 after a 20 year hiatus. He currently chairs the Board of Directors of the IJA, teaches juggling to middle school kids, and is a spectacularly average juggler. In his real life, he lives in the Bay Area, CA and is a software engineer, working on Yahoo! Fantasy Sports.

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