November 14, 2005

Jugglers Convene For Festival of Fun

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Novice and internationally renowned jugglers alike filled the Ramin Room of Bartels Hall with flying clubs, balls, beanbags, rings, diabolos, devilsticks and even rolls of toilet paper during the ninth annual Big Red Jugglefest. The event, which was planned and sponsored by the Cornell Juggling Club, dedicates an entire weekend to juggling and the related arts of unicycling, diabolo and devilsticks.

The festival commenced Friday evening with open juggling. It continued Saturday morning with continuous open juggling, scheduled workshops and competitions, which all led up to a performance Saturday night at the State Theater in downtown Ithaca. The festival ended yesterday with a final round of open juggling in the Ramin Room. While many festival participants came with duffel bags full of juggling equipment, the club made its own equipment available to all participants.

Over 300 people were in attendance at this year’s festival, making it the best attended festival in the club’s history. The festival attracted participants from as far as Delaware, Maine and Canada, as well as members of juggling clubs of other universities including Rochester, RIT, Columbia, SUNY Oswego and Queen’s University in Ontario.

“In this area, ours is the big one in the fall and Rochester is the [big event] in the spring,” said Brian Goodfellow ’06, president of the Cornell Juggling Club.

Greg Billing ’08, vice president of the Cornell Juggling Club, attributes the steady growth in festival attendance to the event’s favorable reputation among jugglers. “This festival is getting a really good reputation of good workshops, good performers, a lot of people. When you get that kind of build up people will want to come,” Billing said.

For Carl Roth of the Nanaimo Park Jugglers of Ottawa, it was his first time coming to the Cornell Jugglefest. “People we know came here, and said it was good,” said Roth.

Saturday’s workshops were geared toward jugglers of all skill levels and ranged from learning juggling basics to more complex passing tricks to unicycle skills. Many of the workshops were taught by professional performers, some of whom have won International Jugglers Association competitions.

Both these performers and festival participants took part in competitions late Saturday afternoon. Among the various competitions was the seven ball endurance, in which participants juggle seven balls as long as possible, reverse limbo, in which unicyclists hop over a bar at increasing heights, blind juggling, in which participants juggle with their eyes closed, and the best trick competition, awarded on the basis of audience applause.

Prior to the beginning of Saturday night’s show, members of the Cornell Juggling Club raffled off over 20 juggling-related items, including a unicycle, to people who had purchased raffle tickets earlier that day. The show itself was emceed and headlined by Team Rootberry, made up of the juggling talent and comedy of performers Jonathan Root and Bill Berry. Other performances included a basketball act by Ilze Luneau, club juggling by 15-year-old Wes Peden and diabolo performed by Tokyo native Ryo Yabe, considered by many at the festival to be the world’s best diabolo performer.

Festivalgoers who had attended the Jugglefest in previous years noted that this year’s festival had more variety in respect to juggling related activities. Diaboloist Andrea Heilig, a member of the Oswego Jugglers, was especially pleased with the increased prevalence of diabolos at this year’s festival.

Another difference in this year’s festival was that, due to unforeseen circumstances, the juggling prop vendors slated to be present at the event were unable to attend.

The Jugglefest was the culmination of nearly a year of planning. Immediately following last year’s festival members of the Cornell Juggling Club began compiling a list of performer’s they were interested in for this year’s festival.

“I’m really impressed. It’s easy to talk about what you want to do, but these guys actually put it together,” said Patrick Morse ’07, former vice president of the Cornell Juggling Club who came up for the festival from his engineering co-op.

Overall the festival participants had a lot of fun and the event and its performers were well-received. “The only thing I wish we could do differently is have it for a week, instead of a weekend. It’s too short,” Billing said.

Archived article by Katie Pollack
Sun Staff Writer