Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival 1999

A record 135 registered jugglers attended the twenty-first annual Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival held February 5, 6, and 7 in the Grady High School Girls Gym in downtown Atlanta . The weather was warm and clear outside, which was lucky because Grady has walled the stage in for classrooms, limiting our juggling space to the floor of the gym itself. A powerful new Halogen light helped make it easier to see flying props, and it did not feel too crowded even at peak juggling times in the morning and afternoon. Four out-of-town vendors had tables in the gym; they all reported good sales for the weekend. The AJA sold all but 7 or so of the 144 commemorative T-Shirts produced for the event.

Eight acts entered the competition for the Coveted Phil, kicked off as always by the Seed & Feed Marching Abominable band. Our own Bruce Plott led the band, as Rodger French filled in on bass drum. The drum made it to the gig but the drummer was held up in Georgia Tech football traffic.

Charlotte 's Dazzling Dimuzio brothers took the "Most Magnanimous" trophy, with a stunning club passing and acrobatics act which culminated with both brothers juggling clubs while in a shoulder stand on top of a 6-foot unicycle. It took a household ladder to set this up. Steve "Elvis" Brown, a yo-yoist from Tallahassee , won the "Most Amazing" trophy with an unusual top and yo-yo manipulation act. The three "No Count Jugglers" from Athens took "Most Incredible" with a fine club passing act featuring some interesting 7th club work.

During the judging, a group of yo-yoists held the finals and awards of the first Southern regional yo-yo contest. Other contestants included local Andreas Dieberger with some startling diabolo work, Simon Livingston with a juggling puppet act, and Michael Grebe with a comic dance juggling routine. The Mouse award this year went to Brenda McClain for her devotion to helping organize and run the festival.

Yo-yo artists were a strong presence for the first time at the festival, as they revved up for their competitions and laid the groundwork for a national yo-yo organization. Interested people could talk to Greg Cohen and Andrew Arvesen about Fiend magazine, a new publication covering the world of yo-yos, tops, and juggling. Other sights around the gym floor included a relatively quiet game of combat in one corner, many people passing many clubs, and several nascent and mature 7-ball patterns.

Around 7:30 Saturday night, the party was further enlivened by a group of 20 Egyptian tourists and their English-speaking guide, who marched to a far corner of the gym, had their pictures taken (some holding juggling knives), and left. Rumor had it that they had read of the festival in the local papers and come out briefly to see what it was about.

The midnight Cabaret was held at 11 pm Saturday on the stage of the Horizons Theater in Little Five Points, generously donated by Jeff and Lisa Adler. The Deluxe Vaudeville Orchestra provided music as Amherst college student Jake Abernathy and Boston comic Cyrus P. Kosky did some polished street work. Rodger French ran through the famous flag alphabet, Steve Brown popped balloons off vulnerable places on a volunteer with a razor-equipped yo-yo, and Rick Purtee and Andreas Dieberger traded diabolo tricks.

The final show Sunday afternoon at the gym started with some ball juggling, then featured the perennial Henry Huggler and his camel, a startling yo-yo demo by Steve Brown and professional yo-yo artist Dale Oliver, and Emory's Amazing Throwing Up Society in a piece combining dance and juggling to fifties music. About 20 people staggered in to dinner at Thai One On afterwards, all promising to do it again next year.

Article by Charles Shapiro



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