IJA Conventions / Festivals – Every Ten Years

Happy Birthday IJA – 70 Years Old!  It all started when some jugglers attending the International Brotherhood of Magicians Convention in 1947 in Pittsburgh, PA decided to form an organization specifically for jugglers.  The next summer, the first IJA Convention was held in Jamestown, New York.  38 of the 115 members attended, including three members who are still alive today – Bill Dietrich, Stu Raynolds, and Bobby Jule.  There is a reprint of the coverage of the 1st Convention from the July 1948 Juggler’s Bulletin contained in the Summer 1987 Juggler’s World, and is also available online by clicking here.  And, believe it or not, 75 minutes of video coverage from that first convention still exists and will be made available as IJA Members-Only Content later this year.

I thought it would be fun to take a quick glance at the state of the IJA at each ten year anniversary as we approach our 70th annual get-together next month in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (USA).

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.


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 will no doubt be 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.

1977 Parade

 1977 Group Photo

Hovey Burgess and Judy Finelli – 10 Clubs at 1977 IJA Convention

Here are a number of videos of the 1977 convention’s goings-on which can give some good flavor of the festival at the time:

1977 IJA Convention Part 1 “The Picnic” from Happy Feder on Vimeo.

1977 IJA Convention Part 2 “A Typical Day” from Happy Feder on Vimeo.

1977 IJA Convention Part 3 “Some Really Really Good Jugglers” from Happy Feder on Vimeo.

1977 IJA CONVENTION PART 4 Competition from Happy Feder on Vimeo.

1977 IJA Convention Part 5 “Public Show” from Happy Feder on Vimeo.

1977 IJA Convention Part 6 “Hey You!” from Happy Feder on Vimeo.

1977 IJA CONVENTION 7 “ON THE ROAD” from Happy Feder on Vimeo

40th Convention – Akron, Ohio, 1987

The 1987 convention made a very big deal of honoring the past and recognizing its 40th Anniversary 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.

Author Scott Cain with Sergei and Katja Ignatov in 1997

60th Festival – Winston- Salem, North Carolina, 2007

This festival is an example of how truly international the IJA had become.  The Championships were won by Thomas Dietz (Individuals – Germany), Jonglissimo (Teams – Austria), and Yoshiaki Nagatake (Juniors – Japan).  Other significant jugglers from outside of the United States in attendance included Francoise Rochais, Viktor Kee, and Yuri Pozdniakov.  Other notable jugglers at the festival included relative newcomers Wes Peden, Vova Galchenko, and Doug Sayers, as well as seasoned pros such as the Raspyni Brothers, Passing Zone, Mark Nizer, Bob Nickerson, and Tuey Wilson.  The Cascade of Stars show also introduced many jugglers to Get The Shoe, one of the best received acts ever at the IJA. XJuggling (then called eXtreme Juggling) was now an annual event at the festival as well.

Get the Shoe


I’ve had the honor of attending the 40th, 50th, and 60th IJA conventions, and I’ll be at the 70th Festival next month too.  I hope to see you there!  We’ll be celebrating the IJA’s history in style!  Come join the fun.


Scott Cain is an IJA Life Member, IJA Numbers Championships Co-Director, a former Numbers gold-medalist, Teams medalist as a member of Raising Cain, Musical Theater Critic for Talkin’ Broadway (Cincinnati/Dayton), and assistant curator/researcher for the Historical Juggling Props Museum (www.historicaljugglingprops.com). He and his family live in Cincinnati, Ohio (USA).

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