182 registered jugglers attended the 36th annual Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival held January 30 - February 2, 2014.
The crowd included travelers from Canada, Missouri, Utah, and Colorado as well as the usual assortment of Floridians, Carolinians, and other Southeastern folks. Attendance was down a little from previous years, possibly a result of the news coverage of the big snowstorm traffic jam in Atlanta the previous week. We saw mostly clear skies and temperatures in the 50s from Thursday through Sunday.
Friday night featured open juggling, a little less crowded than other years. The Yerba Maté-fueled juggling, unicycling, hooping, and general mayhem started at 5 pm and went on until the tick of 10 pm. Area bars and restaurants caught the overflow afterward. Only a few of the groups passing were working with both hands, although several were involved in some interesting movement patterns.
Spencer Schwab ably directed the juggling games on Saturday morning. Kellin Quinn and Dan Brown won the “Huggling” contest, and Dan Brown also took home a trophy for the 5-ball endurance, enlivened at the end with a 5-up pirouette. Matt Feldman won the Blind Juggling contest. In a dramatic upset, Kerry Silson took the Club Balance trophy from perennial favorite Jimmy Robertson. Anthony Attinello took home a trophy full of cash in the quarter juggling contest. The random 7-club juggling trophy went to Alan Thompson and Matt ? . Kellin Quinn took the juggling Simon Says trophy. Jimmy Robertson's only trophy was a special “I am Jimmy Robertson” model. Kerry Silson had a great time hamming it up with his club balance trophy at the later events in the festival.
Workshops included basic juggling, contact staff, and basic club tricks. Other learning opportunities abounded, including unicycling at all levels in the courtyard and gym, a low-altitude tight rope, and various other interesting conveyances including a trikke, an electric skateboard, a racing tricycle, power stilts and drywall stilts.
The Seed and Feed Marching Abominable Band, celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, opened the public show with a rousing set of brass-heavy tunes. The Juggling Competition had 10 acts, herded along by our own President Andy Ford. IJA Juniors champion Delaney Bayles (Salt Lake City, Utah) was the "Most Outstanding" act, with a routine which included some 5-ball tricks, four-ring pancakes, 5-ring pull-offs and pull-ons, and ended with a 5-club 3-up pirouette. Brandon Zaballero took the "Most Terrific" trophy, with an act which also included several 5-ball tricks, some interesting 3-ring body-roll tricks, and a short run of 7 rings. St. Petersburg's Dan Brown took home the "Most Stupendous" prize; his act included 5 ball back-crosses, a solid run of 7 balls, 5-club back-crosses, and a brief juggle of 6 clubs.
Other highlights of the competition included Atlanta's Keith McNeil running several multi-object juggling tricks, Isabella Majzun with an original act incorporating some amazing contortions, and Roger Smith (Jacksonville, Florida) with some remarkable club juggling on unicycle. A 7-ball endurance contest during the judges' deliberations was handily won by Delaney Bayles; the 5-club endurance contest was taken by ?. Neil, Heather and a young volunteer also entertained the audience with their comedy club passing act until the judges returned.
The 10 pm Cabaret was ably MC ed by North Carolinian Joseph “Just Joey” Rudzinski and included 12 acts. Highlights included Randy Cabral's impressive hat tricks, our own Jimmy Robertson doing some fairly impossible unicycle mounts and idles, new Groundhog winner Kellin Quinn with a stylish club routine, and Ted Joblin's always impressive diabolo act. Other acts included Bella Becker's LED fan dance, Dan Brown with some nice lighted ball work, and Uri Gottschalk's modernist yo-yoing. Keith Watson received the Mouse award this year in memory of Mickey Motti.
Sunday was quiet, with the usual hugging and crying as people started off on their travels homeward. Fifteen of us went to the traditional Panahar feast, where we toasted a Groundhog Festival old enough to be president and plotted new excitements for next year.
Festival Report by Charles Shapiro