70th Annual IJA Festival Day Three (Thursday)

The Cedar Rap Sheet

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Juniors Stage Championships Results

First place: Bennett Santora, age 13 from New York, NY.

Second place: Christopher Haaser, age 16 from Huntsville, UT

Third place: Houston Odum, age 17 from Jamestown, NC

Your preliminary judges were: Matt Henry, Sky King, Dan Holzman, Alan Howard, and Wes Peden.

Your Finals judges were: David Cain, Martin Frost, Jay Gilligan, Matt Hall, Laura Kaseman, Chloe Somers Walier, and Noel Yee.

Congratulations to all the 2017 winners!

Cedar Sights

Cedar Rapids, the City of Five Smells

Did you know that Thursday was Crunchberry Day in Cedar Rapids? There are several factories within smelling distance of downtown, all producing nationally-recognized breakfast cereals. General Mills and Quaker Oats have large grain processing plants here, as do Archer Daniels Midland, Ralston, and Cargill. Locals look forward to Crunchberry Day because the air vaguely smells like strawberries. Most of the smells are pleasant, except when it rains.

Two Ply Press BIG MONEY Oldest Festival Tee Shirt Contest

Ladies and Gentlemen, would you like to win 500 BIG ONES? Of course you would! Here’s how you win — bring your oldest IJA Festival tee shirt to the Two Ply Press table before Saturday at noon and show us your fading fashion. The owner of the most ancient apparel will take home a lovely green voucher for five hundred BIG ONES. Don’t be shy. Worn, wrinkled, or ragged, we want to see it! We know you old timers are out there. If you can remember your room number, go check your suitcase and bring it on down.

History Corner

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

40th Convention – Akron, Ohio, 1987

The 1987 convention made a very big deal of honoring the past and recognizing its 40thAnniversary in a big way.  900 jugglers showed up and were treated to a great week.  Benji Hill (Individuals), Manic Expressions (Teams), and Curt Bonnem (Juniors) won the stage championships, and other competitors included The Raspyni Brothers, Doubble Troubble, Jeff Mason, Dana Tison, David Cain, and Mark Faje.  Bounce and Ooo-La-La won the People’s Choice Award, and Owen Morse impressed on the joggling track.  Old timers Jay Green and Johnny Lux performed in the final show of the week, and many other long-term members were in attendance as well.

50th Festival – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1997

It was fitting that the 50th get-together, now called a Festival rather than a Convention, should be held in Pittsburgh since that’s where the organization began.  The 1997 festival was attended by nearly 900 jugglers and the gym was open 22 hours a day.  Mary Wilkins ran a well-received History Lounge.  Sergei Ignatov was in attendance, accompanying his daughter Katja.  Vladik Miagkospoupov, who had won the Juniors title two years earlier, won the Individuals Championships, with the Peachock Brothers winning Teams, and Adam Kariotis impressively taking the Juniors’ crown.  Other jugglers active in various ways at the festival included Darin Marriott, Heather Hacket-Brinegar, Jay Gilligan, Emil Carey, Bruce Sarafian, Brian Patz, Matt Henry, Waldo, Robert Nelson, and Edward Jackman (his last IJA – we miss you Edward).  Airjazz and longtime pro Tommy Curtin were among performers in the final show. Founding Fathers Art Jennings, Roger Montandan, and Bernard Joyce were in attendance, as well as original charter member Bobby Jule.

Bonus Retro Non Sequitur

“Proofread carefully to see if we’ve any words out.”

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 Ben “The Box Man” Decker.

Ben Decker did his first professional performing gig at 10 years old – a magic show at a birthday party for a whopping $5.00. He discovered juggling in 1976, got a degree in Computer Science in 1985 and happily left that degree in the dust to hit the streets and stage to work as a comedy juggler until 1995. He’s been putting his moldy computer skills to work ever since, often toying with returning to the stage. Someday. Other notable stuff includes winning the IJA Junior’s division in 1978, making “Ben Decker Boxes” and either writing, publishing, editing or licking stamps for “Two Ply Press” in the 80’s and 90’s. His major creative outlet these days is making his friends laugh on FaceBook and watching his kids be creative — his oldest daughter, Devon, is getting her animation degree at Laguna College of Art and Design; his younger daughter, Megan, is still in high school with an eye on musical theater. His wife of 27 years, Cindy, is the love of his life despite never having learned to juggle.

Ben Decker from Two Ply Press

Five Quick – One Trick (Questions)

Today’s installment of this popular feature is with Bob Nickerson (you know, Bob with the knickers on).

What is your favorite onomatopoeia?: Vroom.

Would you consider yourself an altruistic artist of phenomenology, a jaded new vaudevillian, or a corporate sellout: All through my career I have endeavored to be a corporate sellout with almost no success (I have seldom been paid as much as I wanted but often more than I was worth).

Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?: I would rather juggle duckpin bowling pins because I’m no quack.

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?: Pachelbel’s Canon

Would you like to make any predictions about the future of juggling?: It will become ever more complex because it is amazing what a person will go through to avoid an honest day’s work.

If you could steal credit for any great performance routine, trick, or prop, which would you claim?: Larry Vakman’s (The Amazing Larry Vee) hula hoop on a rola bola juggling five objects while balancing a pool cue on his jaw.

Commentary – How I Found Out About the IJA

By Ben Decker

I was asked today at brunch (just before asking the very nice older woman if we need to be frisked on the way out — this made her laugh and I live for that) how did I find out about the IJA? I told the story and people asked me to put it into today’s blog. Wait. A serious question for a serious blog entry? Ok… I’m in….

In short. I first heard about the IJA in the back of “The Juggling Book” by Carlo. But, that’s the boring answer.

The hopefully more interesting answer is a bit longer…

I grew up in San Diego around the corner from Jon Held. (Yes, that Jon Held. The Jon Held of Airjazz fame.) Now, I have to warn you there’s going to be a lot of what some would call name-dropping here. I prefer to think of it as acknowledgment. Naming people and thanking them for allowing me to tag along. I was just in the right place at the right time.

Jon’s dad knew how to juggle from killing time on the tennis courts. Jon, in turn, taught himself, which, in turn, inspired me. We practiced in front of Jon’s house along with Kit Summers, who went to our high school. We made clubs from PVC pipe. Yep. That era.

Fast forward a bit. To a claim. A big claim. Let’s face it, every juggler has heard some version of the following: my friend/uncle/cat/viral infection/whatever can juggle 9/7/36/more than you. In this case it was seven. In our local Balboa Park. In fact, not just a juggler — two jugglers. And they were passing the hat for tips. Yeah, right…. Look, buddy, “The Carlo Book”  (pretty much the only juggling book available at the time) says that only the best in the world could ever juggle seven and they would be the toast of kings, queens and heads of state. Silly Carlo… you should have been at the park that day.

So, we went  to the park and… no way… There were two guys doing street shows (the first jugglers I had ever seen performing in person), they had way too much talent, and they did a contest in the middle of their act to see who could have a better run with seven balls. One was Bob Rosenberg — a phenomenal juggler living in San Diego who had the smoothest (smoothest!) transition from a 6 ball half-shower to a full shower that you could ever imagine — a thing of beauty. The other was Dick Francis. Yes, that Dick Francis. The one you know better as Franco. I was awe-struck. So much so, I hid in a corner for a while to work my 1-up, 2-up.

It should be noted that one of Kit Summers’ talents has always been assertively telling people he is Kit Summers. And then making connections with those people. I don’t remember the details, but I’m pretty sure it was Kit that broke the ice. Bob and Dick were as friendly as could be and, fast forward a few days, there was a dinner party at Jon’s house. Dick’s wife Carlene and their very young baby daughter Noelle were there, as were two magicians — Richard Turner and Armando. Yes. That Richard Turner — one of the best card workers in the world. They were practicing coin rolls on the back of their hands — many coins, rolled individually and in pairs. 5 coins rolling across one hand? No problem. Fantastic stuff. Mind blowing magic. I was eating it up. And they were talking about street magic in Balboa Park. How receptive people were to a given trick. How to improve a move or two.

Then Dick broke out the movies. Home movies. Movies you wouldn’t believe. Look around the room in David Cain’s museum. Yep. Those guys. On film. Hours of it. Magical.

So what’s the punchline? There was talk about this organization called the IJA. The same one in the back of Carlo’s book. But now it wasn’t just a reference on a back page. It was real.

I knew what I was experiencing was fantastic, but not fully. Not like you do with 40 years of hindsight.  I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate being in the right place at the right time. I will forever be thankful to everyone in that room.

Ironically, my first IJA convention wasn’t for a while — 1978. I would have gone to the Los Angeles convention in 1976, but I didn’t think I was good enough. Silly me.

Avatar photo

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

Leave a Reply