Friday, January 17, 2014

Day 250 - The Madfest Juggling Festival

I have never been to a juggling festival. Prior to my “I have never...” year, visiting such an event likely wouldn’t have been something on my “to do” list; however, my recent experience with juggling at the Madison Circus Space left my curious about what I would find at such a unique event. Obviously, I knew there would be plenty of juggling, but the breadth and difficulty of the juggling I experienced at the Madison Circus Space had me thinking a juggling festival would offer plenty of good company and some amazing feats to take in. As a result, I decided I would set aside time to attend my first juggling festival during my year of new experiences. With the annual Madfest Juggling Festival scheduled for this weekend, I made my way to the nearby Alliant Energy Center this evening for a new experience I knew would be unlike any other I encountered to date.

Something different...

When Rachael and I arrived at the complex this evening, we promptly made our way inside to get out of the continuing cold of this winter. Once inside, we were greeted by two men juggling four clubs back and forth in the lobby. The sight would have been odd in any other context, but considering the event happening in the exhibition space just beyond the next set of doors it only served to heighten my anticipation of the event. After pausing briefly to take in the jugglers’ routine, Rachael and I made out way into the main hall of the juggling festival and paused before the room full of people. To our left nearly a dozen people were riding unicycles and other unfamiliar wheeled devices and in front of us a group of roughly 100 people were all tossing objects into the air in the familiar, mesmerizing arches of juggling. Having only seen a few people juggling at a time before, I stood in awe of all of the activity. It was an incredibly unique sight, and it immediately caused a smile to cross my face.

The exhibition hall

Over the next 30 minutes Rachael and I walked around the complex, stopping to watch those jugglers performing the most incredible feats. During tour of the space we encountered a man handily juggling seven balls at once, a group of five men and women juggling in an alternating, circular moving pattern, and two men that were head-butting a ball back and forth while they juggled four clubs with their hands. You read that correctly. They were keeping a ball in the air with their heads while juggling four clubs back and forth. It was crazy.

Have you ever seen 100 people juggling at the same time?

Needless to say, the amount of skill present at the festival was astounding, and the constant presence of objects gracefully arcing threw the air around us provided plenty of entertainment. Everyone there was having a great time showcasing their talents among their peers, which was universally met with encouragement and light-hearted challenges. Although I didn’t attempt to partake in the juggling action, I did find myself absorbed into the fun atmosphere and the jovial spirit omnipresent throughout the event. Being surrounded by so many people making the most of a Friday evening doing something they love made it impossible not to get caught up in the spirit.

After taking some time to visit the booths of the few vendors in attendance, Rachael and I made our way back toward the front of the hall and looked over the crowd one last time. Still entranced by the sight of so many people juggling, I stopped one last time to observe all of the people in the space. “When’s the next time you’ll see something like that?” I asked rhetorically as Rachael stepped to my side. “I don’t know. It’s pretty crazy,” she said watching the jugglers in action. I nodded my head in agreement as we turned toward the entrance and started making our way toward the door. A few moments later a man darted across our path some 10 feet in front of us, feigning death from an unending barrage of foam discs being launched from a toy gun held by a young girl in chase. The activity caused me to chuckle as we continued, manipulating our path as to not stumble over the man lying on the floor. “That about sums it up,” I said glancing at Rachael, “These people are here to have a good time and feel young. There’s nothing wrong with that as far as I’m concerned.”

Juggling while head-butting a ball back and forth...
Mind. Blown.

That takeaway was all I really needed from today’s “I have never...” experience. Although seeing the amazing talents and routines at the Madfest Juggling Festival was an entertaining way to spend the evening, the energy that came with the event was the real benefit from this experience. On a cold winter night the excitement and fun that came with the festival were enough to give me a few laughs warm my spirit, which is exactly what I need in the depths of winter. Sure, attending a juggling festival was a simple experience in comparison to many things I have done this year, but it was centered in joy and passion for a unique skill. When it is all said and done, that’s something I can definitely get into.

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