Jugglers World, March 1982, p. 9

by Bill Giduz

Groundhog Day -- Atlanta, GA

Three northern winners take home a 'Phil' as their souvenirs of Dixie!


Far above through the Grady High School gym windows, Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog could watch the weather pass over Atlanta and think about his shadow. But what he saw spread across the hardwood basketball floor in front of him were 63 registered jugglers, furiously hibernating away a February weekend with their props a' flying!


"We chose Groundhog Day for our festival back in 1978 because it's a good time to work out the winter kinks," said Toni Shifalo, president of the Atlanta Jugglers Association which sponsored the fourth annual event.


The new quarters for this year's festival appealed to jugglers, unicyclists and spectators alike. Costs for rental of the facility were covered by a $5 registration fee and mentions of but not passing the hat during the Saturday competition and Sunday public show.


Both were well attended by the public. Good public relations work with local radio, television and newspapers helped draw over 200 spectators to each event.


Following the competitions, the three smaller than life porcelain Phil trophies were in the hands of three talented northern jugglers - Anthony Gatto of Ellicott City, MD, Robert Peck and Larry Vaksman, both of Philadelphia, PA. Local non­juggling judges picked these three winners for the "Most Spectacular," "Most Incredible" and "Most Stupendous" prizes from among a dozen competitors.


The winners were well picked. Rapid Rhymin' Robert Peck lit up the house with a fire devil stick routine, then danced through a club swinging number.


Anthony Gatto, the IJA Juniors champion, packed his four minutes with five balls including under the leg throws, six balls, three clubs continu­ous back crosses, transition from three clubs with a fourth in a chin balance to four clubs, and finished with a ball on a mouthstick, balance pole on the forehead, ring spinning on one leg and four ring juggle.


The Amazing Larry Vaksman showed new and old variations of his simultaneous moves with unicycles, balance board, pogo sticks, hula hoops, balance poles, basketballs, clubs and tennis balls.


He dedicated his 12 object finish trick (seven hula hoops, three balls, a basketball and a club) to the Good ol' U.S.A. with hopes it could reclaim a little juggling pride for this country from Sergei Ignatov, the 11-ring Russian juggler.


There were notable acts on the Sunday matinee public show as well. Steve Dearmont from Burwell, NE, demonstrated ball patterns with up to seven non-weighted tennis balls. His  multiplex patterns with six, seven and eight were especially interesting.


David Lowe from Atlanta executed a club, boxes and ring routine at breakneck speed, ending with ring juggling on the slack wire while spinning three plates on a mouthstick apparatus. He also finished a six ring juggle by pulling them allover his head.


Atlanta's Kenny Raskin did a mime skit, "Juggling Bags," involving four audience members in a musical parade of one ball proportions. His solo interpretations of "Soul Bags," "Classical Bags" and "Missed Bags" were hearty comic relief.


Also appearing in weekend public events were Pat Cox, Andy Ford, Nick Gatto, Bill Giduz, Jeff Kinnamon, Alexis Lee, Lindsay Morris, Henry Slack, Louis Zeller, Shifalo and Rodger French.


The event moved to Grady High School from the Civic Center this year partly because of a tighter city budget now than in the past. Formerly, the AJA obtained Civic Center space at a reduced rate, but that could not be arranged this year.


Much of the AJA's income over the years has been obtained from city grants. The club has used its treasury to underwrite !he cost of sending members to IJA annual conventions. Eight people received $100 each last summer to go to Cleveland, according to Rodger French, former AJA president. He said, "The primary goal of fundraising in the AJA has become to send people to the convention.  Half the money from each job we get goes to the individuals who perform, and half goes in the treasury for the convention fund. "


With city funds being so scarce, club members have to look to the private sector now - neighborhood festivals and private parties. A dozen active members are performing at such events and showing up for twice-weekly meetings.


A. Gatto, Peck, Vacksman






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