Winners of the coveted PHIL award this year were Keith McNeil, Delaney Bayles and Liam Halstead.
177 registered jugglers, some from as far away as Canada, attended the 38th annual Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival this year. Friday night found a larger-than-usual crowd passing clubs, working on routines, and socializing at the Yaarab Shrine Center in downtown Atlanta.
Stand-out club passing routines included several groups working on Roundabouts, several 3-count variants of familiar 2-count patterns and some groups working on Martin's Mildness/Madness variants. Overall technical level was high this year, including novel passing patterns which were not present last year.
A DJ showed up Friday night to help matters along with tunes and general funky noises. Unicycles were banned in the big room this year, a consequence of a spiffy new tile floor. Some people got away with in-line skates though.
The Marlay's food truck provided nourishment this year, as the inside-the-room food vendor elected not to participate.
Saturday was bright and fair. Unicyclists worked in the courtyard outside the room, and aerialists from The Space Atlanta set up a web rig there as well.
Inside the Kids Area featured beanbags, buckets, some stomp-catapults, and various other toys. Vendors included local performers Circus Bitties, Air Gem, Ninja Pyrates, The Complete Fool, Kendama USA, and artists Brandon Ross and Anne Rohr providing face-painting for the brave.
The Saturday games were MC'd by Lao Alovus. Aaron Shajinaga won the 3-ball Simon Says. Max Housman took honors in the 5-ball endurance after a surprisingly brief run. Perennial winner Jimmy Robertson once again struck gold in the club balance, which culminated in Jimmy attempting to remove his T-shirt while keeping his club balanced on his face, foiled only when the shirt caught on his wrist watch.
Rachel Stern once again walked away with honors in the Club Crown competition. Kyle Brown won all the money in the Quarter Juggling game, ending his run with a couple of 75 cent tricks. Brian Knobbs and Laim Halstead succeeded at the 7-club juggling endurance contest, outlasting a stage packed with more than 5 pairs of contestants.
Ted Joblin and Max Housman succeeded in the 3-ball huggling contest, outlasting every other pair by a respectable margin. Max Housman won the Blind Juggling contest, looking a little less surprised than usual when he opened his eyes to the crowd around him. Delaney Bayles took top honors in 3-ball combat after a 5-round preliminary followed by a contest among the winners of the initial rounds.
Andrew Ruiz took the 3-club combat crown from Delaney with a beautiful attack from above Delany's head, also after a 5-round winnowing process. Delaney Bailes won the 7-ball endurance juggling crown with a bravura performance under pressure on the stage.
The competition/public show, ably MC'd by Dan Howard, featured 10 acts, most of them very strong. Judges Kelly Hoyt, Buffi Ball and Joel Potter had some tough choices in front of them. Winners were Keith McNeil (Decatur, Georgia), who took "Most Amazing" with a very tight act featuring lip-syncing to James Brown and juggling of different objects in the same pattern. McNeil spun a ring on a small metal bowl and did a variety of tricks with 3 balls and a tambourine and 3 balls plus 1 club, all while wearing a gorgeous wig.
Delaney Bayles (Sandy, Utah) was "Most Inspiring", with an act that started with 5 balls and got more technical from there. Highlights included 5 rings outside pancake-style, a decent 7-ball run, 6 rings, 4 clubs with right back-crosses, and 5 clubs.
Liam Halstead (Tucson, Arizona) was "Most Astronomical" with a very difficult box act featuring tumbling and cigar box manipulations. Halstead's drop-free act included pirouettes and manipulations with up to 4 cigar boxes, sophisticated balances, and a double-pirouette with 4 boxes.
Other acts included Isabella and Maya (St Louis, MO), with an amusing 2-person act, Brandon Zaballero (Orlando, FL) with a very nice hoop act, and Copper Santiago (New York, NY), with some very smooth diabolo moves. Cindy Marvell (Boulder, CO) also did a strong act featuring silicon ball bouncing, clubs, and a hula hoop. About 500 people witnessed the show.
Bruce Brenizer enlivened the usual hat pitch by recruiting a crew of 6-year-olds for the most ruthless begging ever, resulting in a good donation total.
Ron Anglin MC'd the Cabaret in front of an audience of close to 200 people, enlivening it with tales of his 16 years of professional juggling, which included some gigs in front of truly difficult folks. Copper Santiago opened with diabolo tricks, followed by John Nations with a ring act and some politically pointed commentary. Cindy Marvell worked with a tambour and some balls, along with 3 and 4 clubs.
Don Lewis and Jen Jackman won the Mouse award this year. Tim Settimi did a short skit as "Dog Clown". "Boum Twa" (Eric Prather and Alexander Knapp) did their cruise-ship act for us, followed by Liam Halstead, Ted Joblin and Delaney Bailes. Neil Jordaan and Bruce Plott provided technical and sound assistance for the show.
Sunday there was more juggling in the space, as people began to filter out in order to travel home. Thirteen people attended spent around $25 apiece at the post-Groundhog dinner at Panahar Restaurant, which broke up around 21:00 so folks could get their sleep in before facing their lives.
Festival Report by Charles Shapiro