Richmond Juggling Convention 2017

Paolo Garbanzo, former member of the Flying Karamazovs and official Jester of Muncaster Castle in England, makes his home in Richmond, Virginia, but his performance schedule leaves him few weekends where he actually is home.

So when his scheduling found himself in Richmond near the Christmas holidays, he figured, “what better time to throw a festival?” Working with the Richmond Waldorf School his child attends, Paolo and wife Onca started planning a festival. “I figured if just a few people showed up,” Paolo says, “I could at least hang out with my friends and pass.”

An inaugural festival is always small, and this one suffered a bit from advertising only hitting its stride a few weeks before the event due to scheduling hiccups with school activities. However, some twenty folks came to break in this first in what is hoped to be an annual event, and what it lacked in numbers, it certainly made up for in talent. Mark Nizer (1990 IJA Champion), Dextre Tripp (1996 Team Silver), and multi-time champs the Bounce Dicks were there, along with Richmond mainstay Jonathan Austin.

Mechanical issues on Saturday meant no heat in the gymnasium. This just encouraged more juggling. Tripp and Nizer were seen passing nine, as did Garbanzo and Tripp later. There were larger multiperson pattens as well. The bounce clubs were a source of endless experimentation.

Early scene from the Richmond Juggling Convention (photo by Eric Shibuya)

Workshops were small and impromptu, Waldorf students closed out the term the week before so there may have been little motivation to come back to school. Those that did were taught to juggle and at least one family came for the public show.

The public show could have gone renegade, but there were minors in the audience, so a more sedate presentation ensued. Garbanzo served as MC and juggled five clubs and five machetes. Moira Lee did a fun “impression” of a mouse meeting an owl. Mark Nizer performed with buugeng, as did Ren Faire mainstay Jasif “the Snake Sword Master” Jabobski. Richmond native and frequent Flow Festival performer Matt Mills performed with two and three poi.

Dextre Tripp closed the show, mounting a free-standing ladder, then having a child climb up to hand Tripp his fallen hat. The finale was Tripp juggling an apple, bowling ball, and chain saw, finishing with the apple in his mouth and cutting it with the chainsaw.

Sunday’s gathering was smaller, with many of us saying goodbyes to hit the road. Still and all, this little festival had a successful opening year, hope to catch folks there next year!

Eric "Propfessor" Shibuya works as Professor of Strategic Studies, Marine Corps University and has been juggling for over 35 years. He was one of the guest editors for the 50th anniversary edition of Jugglers World and currently serves on the IJA Board of Directors. He's a frequent attendee of regional juggling and flow festivals. He lives in Virginia.

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