Atlanta Journal, 2/5/1982

All caught up in juggling craze

By Wes Smith, Journal Staff Writer


Under normal circumstances a grade school cafeteria can be a perilous world of flying tuna sandwiches and flash floods of spilled milk. But on Monday night, the cafeteria of Moreland Elementary School was a treacherous zone of misguided missiles.


It was, you see, The Night of the Jugglers.   Assorted and sundry members  of the Atlanta Jugglers Association took over the school cafeteria in a final tuneup tossup before this weekend's Fourth Annual Groundhog Day Juggling Festival.


"You should have worn a hard hat," came the warning as one enthusiast struggled to overcome both gravity and limited airspace in her juggling zone.

Bats, beanbags and juggler's rings bounced off knees, careened off thighs and flopped to the cafeteria floor as the jugglers association performers tested the air.        .      .


"Be careful," cautioned Toni "La Banana" Shifalo, tongue-in-cheek and beanbags in the air, "in practice, sometimes things get out of hand. "


The Atlanta Jugglers Association, founded in 1977, is a group of about 30 fIaky types who spend hours each day throwing up their socks or dirty dishes or anything else that'll go in hand.


"I put shields over all my apartment windows so I could juggle at home," confessed one member.


"They'll juggle anything they caD get their hands on.  Anything from small babies to bananas said Ms. Shifalo, who co-founded the association with her performing partner, Rodger French. "Rodger learned to juggle with lemons. It took him a while, so for a long time there we drank a lot of lemonade. I even juggle when I'm doing the laundry. And we have another member who specializes in knives and meat cleavers."


The Fourth Annual Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival, to be held today and Saturday in the Grady High ,School girl's gymnasium, reflects the group's funky character. Trophies are shaped like groundhogs and awarded on the categories of Most Incredible, Most Stupendous and Most Spectacular.


Among the scheduled entertainment are appearances by, the "Kelly Seed n' Feed Marching Abominables Band," a tennis racket juggling exhibition by that natty group, "The Wimbledon Brothers," and, of course, "a fellow from Philadelphia on a pogo stick."


Truth be known, the Fourth Annual Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival is just one more excuse for juggling socks and meat cleavers in front of an appreciative audience. (They recommend you come for the 2 p.m. competition each day, but any time is really all right.)


Why do jugglers juggle, you ask?


''It's just fun to do, and it's fun to watch," La Banana said. "A lot of us have musical backgrounds, and juggling is a logical extension of our interest in music. Both require rhythm. They sort of go hand-in-hand, so to speak."


There is no drawn-outapprenticeship in juggling. No series of belts or apprenticeships. You learn to juggle, they say, from a juggler.


"I once heard someone say that juggling began with an ancient Egyptian who showed someone who showed someone who showed him. I likethat. idea. I like the thought that juggling is something that is passed on from friend to friend, and, once you leann, it's hard to resist teaching someone else," Ms. Shifalo said.

Tossing 'em high: David Low works out.



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