70th Annual IJA Festival – Day Two (Wednesday)

The Cedar Rap Sheet

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Festival Highlights

A Review: “Comedy In The Air” Welcome Show

It’s very rare to have a performance situation come together where the acts are top notch, the level of professionalism is over the top, and the atmosphere is perfect for some spontaneous and semi-planned creativity and comedy hijinks that makes the whole better than the sum of the already fantastic parts. The beautifully restored Paramount Theater was packed with excited jugglers and locals. The show opened with a juggling mayor, the actual mayor of Cedar Rapids and a salute to the local unions who worked so tirelessly to save the theater from not one but two major flooding incidents. Opening act was the bubbly and unique Chloe Somers Walier who thoroughly enthralled the audience with her incredible balance walking atop champagne bottles while wearing high heels.

Chloe Somers Walier walks on her bottles

Next came The Danger Committee with their high density comedy and thrilling fire & throwing knife danger act, who began alternating stage time with the other powerhouse team in the house, The Passing Zone. Stun guns, flaming knives, chainsaws, torches, sugar cane machetes, Cheetos and a cucumber — what more could you want? These five fine professionals entertained the assembled masses with terrific humor, obvious skill, and familiarity with danger that somehow felt comfortable. The final merging of their two respective acts was simply amazing and brought the crowd to their feet — two people swinging on a multi-thousand dollar piece of equipment while a third person threw knives past them (while wearing a blindfold no less) while two more people passed torches around the knife thrower whose goal was to pop a balloon which would trigger a pie in the face for Matt Hall while another knife thrower threw at him and another target person on the other side of the balloon. It was a cacophony of metal and movement and pie — the perfect show for the kickoff of the IJA’s 70th anniversary.

Finale of the Welcome Show featuring the entire cast, an audience volunteer, Tuey Wilson, and Matt Hall

Election Results

Marilyn Sullivan, Chief Teller

42 onsite ballots were submitted; 1 spoiled ballot; 9 online ballots were submitted

  • Eric Shibiya 38 votes
  • Exuro Piechoki 38 votes
  • Johanna Marks-Quade 36 votes
  • Matt Hall 2 votes
  • Jon Wee 2 votes

The results were announced in the gym and posted at the IJA table. Sean Haddow, Steve Birmingham and Mike Sullivan assisted with the election.

Cedar Sights

History Corner

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

20th Convention – Fallsburg, New York, 1967

At this point, the IJA was hurting, and this was most evident in the annual convention attendance.  The 1967 convention drew only ten jugglers, including Larry Weeks and Stu Raynolds.  This was a wake-up call for the IJA, and concerted efforts during the following year, along with having the first US West Coast location, saw the organization regain its feet (40 attended the 1968 event) and focus on longer-term stabilization.

30th Convention – Newark, Delaware, 1977

This convention was the first to be held on a college campus – the University of Delaware.  Attendance was by far the highest ever at that point – over 300.  The somewhat formal attire of past conventions had given way to more casual clothing more conducive to juggling.  Competitions, though not in the current format, had been started a few years earlier and were now one of the featured events of the week.  This was the first convention for Craig Barnes and Arthur Lewbel, two veterans of many festivals since then who, of course, are in attendance at Cedar Rapids.  Among the jugglers participating in shows, workshops, and competitions were Barrett Felker, Steve Mills, Hovey Burgess, Judy Finelli, Bill Barr, Mike Marlin, Larry Vee, Kit Summers, Fred Garbo, and Allan Jacobs.

Five Quick – One Trick (Questions)

With Jon Wee from TV’s “I Crashed A Drone” (sometimes mispronounced as “The Passing Zone”)

What is your favorite onomatopoeia?: Squirt.

Would you consider yourself an altruistic artist of phenomenology, a jaded new vaudevillian, or a corporate sellout: Corporate sellout. 100%.

Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?: 100 horse-sized ducks.

If you could have one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?: It’s Raining Men.

Would you like to make any predictions about the future of juggling?: No.

If you could steal credit for any great performance routine, trick, or prop, which would you claim?: Bounce piano.

Bonus Retro Non Sequitur

“No, I DON’T want to be on the jury…!”

Meet Your Intrepid Reporters

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 Susie “Sky Queen” Williams.

Susie learned how to juggle and perform during her formative college years at U.C. San Diego in the early 1980s. She met and hung out with juggling stars like Mark Nizer, Edward Jackman, as well as the rest of the Two Ply Press staff, who taught her how to pass 6, 7, 8, and 9 clubs, and how to perform. Working as a part-time juggler for 12 years and touring full time for a summer in Germany, she hung up her devil stick as she started traveling internationally for her “other” job in the computer software industry. These days she is semi-retired, flies her own airplane, and has an aerial photography business to keep her aloft. Her first IJA festival was in Las Vegas in 1984, and her last festival before this one was the 50th in Pittsburgh, PA. She’s happy we “got the band back together” to provide the blog and wrap-up newsletter to everyone!

Sky Queen transportation

Cultural Commentary

In the words of Bob Nickerson: “As I was saying….”

The US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids — aka another convention center named after cash — has a very unusual pattern in their carpet. One word comes to mind when you drop a prop: camouflage. In fact, walking across the room, which is littered with objects no one has bothered to pick up, brings two other words to mind: dog owner. It’s a landmine of poorly seen goodies that you really shouldn’t step on. That being said, one thing has not changed over the years: people don’t mind if you pick up their stuff for a quick pattern or two. Jugglers — at least the ones the Two Ply staff likes — are good people.

So… last night…

The Paramount theater for the opening show of the festival. The acts were fantastic (The Passing Zone, The Danger Committee and Chloe Sommers Walier); none went too long; they were clearly working professionals; I laughed my backside off; and I couldn’t help but wonder if all this goodness wasn’t in violation of some sort of juggling festival law. In fact, I didn’t look at my watch once and that is a huge compliment. Or an insult. To me. Apparently, it’s not cool to be the only guy in the room still wearing a watch. Kids these days.

After that was the “Juggling History Show” hosted by David Cain and Erik Aberg. For the record, and I couldn’t make this up if I tried, “Aberg” is pronounced “Oh Barry.” As in “Oh, Barry… look how it lies there!” As in that famous line from the Raspyni Brothers’ show. As in the team act made up of Dan Holzman and that other guy. As in Dan Holzman, the festival director and the reason this fest has been so, well festfull. Wow, that was a lot of exposition. And nothing kills a blog like too much exposition.

Anyhow… The history show. Holy dead people, Batman. Tricks and props from decades or more in the past that are rarely, if ever seen on stage. Some because they are really hard; others because they are really stupid. But, always interesting and entertaining. The highlight  for me was the “Salerno Ring” — a bicycle hoop attached to a pole that is balanced on your forehead while a ball spins around inside of it while you juggle four balls in a shower pattern that goes through the middle of the hoop… Never mind… here’s a picture:

Chuck Clark performs the Salerno Ring

Seriously, this trick is harder than getting Jenny McCarthy to spell the word “Cat” and I can’t believe how close Chuck Clark came to fully pulling it off. Another highlight was Dan Holzman juggling a cabbage, an axe and a blow-gun, throwing the cabbage high into the air, shooting it with the blowgun and catching it on the axe as it came down. I know some people were hoping he’d slip and hit Mark Faje in the lips,  but those people are mean and shouldn’t think thoughts like I do.

Sleep, dueling snore competitions with Brad French, brunch.

There’s something ironically cool about jugglers eating in a place called “Ballroom C”. But, they might want to rename it to “Ballroom I can’t count” for the remainder of the fest. You see, there is a one plate limit for the price of admission, but jugglers did what jugglers do — “just one more!” There was actually an announcement made over the loudspeaker that our group is no longer trusted to get their own food. This is why we can’t have nice things, people.  Now go pick up your stuff off the butt-ugly carpet. On a side note, it’s a good thing brunch isn’t served in the “Bud Lite Room” (Really! It’s right down the way…). That would be a disaster for this fascinating bunch.

So, I finally made my way to the registration table that was now fully staffed.

More tomorrow….

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

Leave a Reply