70th Annual IJA Festival – Day One (Tuesday)

The Cedar Rap SheetTuesday, July 11, 2017


Greetings, fellow lovers and practitioners of the juggling arts! We, three former editorial staff members of the infamous 90’s juggling ‘zine, The Two Ply Press, are here to give you this, your daily fest news blog (and hopefully an actual hard copy commemorative issue at the end of the week). We are Susie “Sky Queen” Williams, Ben “The Boxer” Decker, and Brad French – “The Silver Fox”. Please find us at our table in the open juggling area (you may notice a big pink banner on the wall behind our table) or grab us in person when you see us and give us the scoop – anything you think all the festival attendees would want to know. We have free swag for you as well (TWO one-of-a-kind collectible buttons) when you drop by our table. Let’s have a great anniversary together!

Welcome Note From a Past President

By Roger Dollarhide

I’d like to take this occasion of the 70th anniversary celebration festival of the International Jugglers’ Association as a past President (1968-69) to greet you and express my very best wishes and expectations of a great gathering!

The IJA has grown and improved a great deal since I was an active, second generation leader as convention host three times (1968,71,72), inventor of the IJA Juggling Championships in 1969 and its director for 10 years, Newsletter Editor for 3 years, and Official Photographer for 10 years. Back then, convention attendance was less than 100 and could fit comfortably in a local motel/hotel ballroom and be run by 3 people. World-wide membership was around 300 and Enrico Rastelli and some obscure Russians were the only people in history who could juggle as many as 8 or 9 balls.

Today, we see high school kids breaking world records in juggling and joggling, thanks to much improved equipment and training opportunities doing tricks that used to take professional jugglers half a lifetime to learn. Convention attendance is now in the many hundreds or more, requiring a paid and volunteer cohort of dozens of highly technically skilled professional level people to plan and execute the day-to-day operation of the organization. Numerous scheduled meetings and gatherings attract people from all over the world to meet, learn, and even compete if they so wish.

This is a wonderful time to attend our festival (I still call it a convention!) and I wish I could be there. Even though I don’t juggle anymore, I’d still take lots of pictures and meet lots of old and new friends- but the travel costs are prohibitive for me. Good luck, good health and good times to you all- Roger Dollarhide

Cedar Sights

History Corner

Every day, we’ll be featuring a bit of history from our previous festivals, courtesy of Scott Cain.

10th Convention – Chautauqua, New York, 1957

In the early days of the IJA, conventions were small gatherings of twenty to forty jugglers and their families.  Most of the people knew each other, and came primarily from the United States East Coast and Midwest. The 10th Convention was hosted by Harry Lind and Doc Crosby.  Also in attendance were Cal Kenyon, Don Rogers, Bob and Lois Jackson, Art Jennings, Johnny Lux, Stu Raynolds, Doc Crosby, Carol Larson, Nick Gatto, Vin Carey, Carl Thorson, Homer Stack, and Francine Rose.

Bonus Retro Non Sequitur

“They don’t give you a vest fer jugglin’ taters!”

Meet Your Intrepid Bloggers

Each day we’ll be spotlighting one of the blog team members, those tireless reporters who are bringing the sights, sounds, and highlights of the day to you from the festival floor. Today we feature Brad French.

Brad started juggling (seriously) in 1980 and attended his first IJA Festival in 1983 in Purchase, New York. He is one of original writers and editors of the legendary Two Ply Press which began publication in 1988 as an expansion of the juggling club newsletter for The Several San Diegans Who Juggle. He is a working juggler, performing most recently in the Chicago nightclub scene for the last 10 years. He has not attended an IJA festival in 15 years and is very pleased to be back in the fold this year.

Random Beauty!

70th Anniversary Artwork featuring Gena Shvartsman Christani and Paul Ponce, by Joculare, as seen at the festival in the main room.

Cultural Commentary

by Ben Decker, not-so-common commentator

The journey is half the fun. That is if you like traveling in a plane that smells like a fire eater’s breath after a 12 hour practice session.

I have successfully navigated through the gauntlet that is the Frontier Airlines website, purchased a ticket, boarded my flight and avoided more sales pitches than Jared Kushner in a Russian sauna. While they did try to get me to purchase peanuts for $3.00 (not the bag, mind you, the individual peanuts), I persevered. Frankly, I have more important things to purchase. Like glow clubs. Or tequila. To get me through the inevitable conversation with someone into clowning about their last big shoe purchase. I have issues with clowns. Except the Cirque kind. They rock. And they own Vegas.

So, I’m comfortably in the air. The tray table may be about as big as a deck of cards, but it goes nicely with the seat that won’t recline. Frontier. The poster child for you get what you pay for.

I start thinking… what will I find in Cedar Rapids? From what I hear, it’s a whole new world. 5 club pirouettes are about as common as gum under an elementary school desk (or, as Bob Nickerson calls it, good eating), the old seniors are the new Juniors and the new Seniors are the old Anthony; there are more female jugglers than ever, which means there are more jugglers who actually bathe; The Passing Zone used to get more bookings than the rest of us, now they make more money than all of us. Combined. Seriously. These guys work harder than Kellyanne Conway after a really bad tweet. The IJA has also finally put its toes into true international waters. In recent competitions, Japanese competitors have put the “J” back in the IJA. Apparently, they’ve been crushing the competition like Michael Phelps at a kindergarten swim meet. There’s also a lot more spinning and a lot less tossing. Contact juggling move over. Flow’s in town and she’s kicking Mel out of the diner.

My destination  approaches. From checking out The Google, I know that Cedar Rapids is the second largest city in Iowa. That’s right, folks…. this guy is going #2 and he’s doing it without a cup off coffee and his magazine. I hope lots of other people are doing the same thing. I mean making jokes that only a 12-year-old will fully appreciate. Set the bar low. Don’t disappoint.

So, I finally get off the plane. The first thing I notice is the airport is quaint, the people are pleasant and it doesn’t reek of smog and urine. I am definitely not in Los Angeles anymore. Now you may ask, why in the world do I live in Los Angeles — I don’t, I just like to make fun of it.

I get picked up by ace report Susie Williams in her 2004 Honda S2000 convertible (known in Iowa as a “Maserati” — seriously — ask her about it). We look stylish. Not as stylish as Patrick McGuire playing an accordion in the lobby or bouncing seven balls off a gorgeous round piece of stained Russian plywood. But we do look stylish. By the way…. An accordion? Yes. The guy is that cool.

I’m tired, so I do what any responsible Two Ply reporter would do. I sit down at the deserted IJA table and start telling people that everything is free. I’m just that giving. If they ask, my name is Martin Frost.

More tomorrow…. It’s time to go see David Cain’s “I do stuff better than dead people” show with The Passing Zone as his opening act. The Passing Zone? Yes. The Passing Zone. The good guys. They’re famous. Like the Kardashians. But with real talent, likable personalities and tutus. Seriously…. Seeing them is more fun than free piglet night at Adventureland. I walk out the door….

Susie Williams, Ben Decker, and Brad French have reunited to cover the IJA's 70th fest.

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