Winners of the coveted PHIL award this year were Chuck Clark, Kira DiPietrantonio and Joshua Romeo. Congratulations!
Two hundred and one registered jugglers attended the 41st Annual Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival, held January 26-28 at the Yaarab Shrine Center less than a mile from the Fox Theater near downtown Atlanta. The festival was moved forward a week because Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta made it impossible to get our space at the correct time (February 1-3) this year. The Center has been upgraded recently, with better lighting, replacement back doors, and auto-flush urinals in the men's room. The lights were particularly welcome.
Friday night started off with over a hundred jugglers in the auditorium, including a couple of individuals working on qualifying with 9 balls off in one corner (and getting 12 and 15 catches). A spiffy new paper schedule listed several well-attended workshops, including Lucy Eden's "(4x,2) is the new 3", Kendama 101 with Alan Tidwell, and an impromptu club-passing workshop led by Rick Purtee. By the end of the festival over 114 people attended 43 workshops, including at least 20 folks newly introduced to 3-ball juggling. Our wonderful food vendor was back this year with a big selection of ramen, meat pies, cheese cake, and other delicacies, including vegan and vegetarian options. We had the space until 11 pm; the last jugglers left the room at around 10:45.
Seven competitors took the stage at The Competition, staged early (12:45pm) to accomodate the Seed and Feed Marching Abominable Band, who had another gig later that day. The crowd was noticeably lighter than in past years, although the hat looked pretty good. Jerry "Free Hugs" Taylor returned as Timer this year, to general acclaim. Competition Winners were Chuck Clark of Detroit Michigan (Crackin' Phenomenal), for a Danger act juggling 3 baseball bats with circular saw blades attached; Josh Romeo of Woodstock, Georgia ("Whiz Bang") for an act featuring gymnastics which included a 5-ball juggle and culminated in a 3-ball front-flip catch; and Kira DiPietrantonio of Philadelphia PA ("Spiffylicious") for another gymnastic act using 3, 4, and 5 red stage balls. Lucy Eden was Master of Ceremonies and provided the interstitial act while the judges deliberated. Other notable acts included Cate Flaherty (Cate Great, Cambridge MA) performing a behind-the-back 3-ball juggle while balanced on two right-angled rola-bolas and a remarkably poised unicycle/juggling act by Nash Abrahams (Lithonia, MI) which included a side mount from the floor while juggling 3 clubs.
Spencer Schwab ran the juggling games once again this year, with shiny plastic trophy cups for each event. Christian Kloc (Washington, DC) won the 3-ball Simon Says. Aaron Shojinag (Charlotte, NC) took home the Blind Juggling trophy. Jacob Tillman (Tallahassee, FL) won Club Crown. Chuck Clark (Detroit, MI) won Club Balance. The team of Dan Howard (Atlanta, GA) and Dave Ferman (Jacksonville, FL) took the 7-club passing crown. Austin Bruckner (Davidson, NC) won 5-club endurance. Christian Kloc and Max Poff (Atlanta, GA) won the Huggling contest.
Lao Alovus (Tallahassee, FL) ran the juggling combat events. Max Poff (Atlanta, GA) took home another trophy for ball combat. Chuck Clark won the club combat competition, after making simultaneous drops with Christian Kloc when the final round was down to two and then triumphing in an epic face-off.
Jenny Oberhauser (Jenny the Juggler, Cambridge, MA) M.C. ed the Saturday cabaret show, with 14 very strong variety acts. Highlights included Denise Beck and Thomas Bednarski (Dorfprozelten, Germany) with a truly innovative partner poi routine, Christian Kloc (Washington, DC) with a bounce routine culminating in a 7-ball lift bounce, and Mike Hayataka (Rockford, MI) performing a remarkable hoop routine featuring some new and amazing balances, tosses and upper-body manipulations. The show ended with astounding unicycle and balance work by Sem, Teresa, and Nash Abrahams (Detroit, MI). Spencer and Shivella Schwab won the Mouse award this year, with a properly touching acceptance speech by Shivella.
The weekend ended with the traditional prix fixe dinner at Panahar Restaurant (3375 Buford Highway, Atlanta, GA), attended by 18 rather exhausted jugglers and guests. Toasts were made, delicious Bengali food was consumed, and nobody died on the way home.
Festival Report by Charles Shapiro