176 registered jugglers and six vendors attended the 2015 Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival, held in the Yaraab Shrine Center on Ponce de Leon Avenue, about 2.4 kilometers east of Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta. Friday afternoon saw a rush of jugglers into the large tiled space, with many groups passing clubs or trading tricks in the big room.
Saturday morning featured the juggling games, ably hosted by Spencer Schwab. Kyle Brown won the legendary 3-ball Simon Says. Brown also took home the money in the quarter-juggling contest. Perennial favorite David Ferman took the 5-ball endurance contest. The 7-club doubles passing endurance contest partners were chosen by birthday, so twin brothers Scott and David Cain easily won it.
Local juggler Rachel Stern beat two others by mere seconds in the club crown race. David Cain also took honors in the blind juggling contest. Jimmy Robertson once again triumphed in the club balance after a hard-fought contest. Oliver and Sebastian took honors in the huggling contest. Propers to Shivella Schwab for collecting the winners names.
Nine acts competed for the coveted Groundhog trophies this year, with Andy Ford as master of ceremonies and judges Michala Minahan, Steve Slanam, and Steve Joaquin. Bruce and Emily Brenizer provided stage managing services. Winners were David Cain, Middletown, OH (Most Special) with a polished 3-trick act, Circus Harmony, St Louis, MO (Most Breathtaking) with a large and disciplined group act, and 40 Fingers and a Missing Tooth, Asheville, NC (Most Jawdropping) with a nice display of dance moves and club passing.
Other highlights included an act incorporating mime by Benjamin Domask, Minneapolis, MN, and Chase Martin, Charlotte, NC with some nice rola-bola/bouncework. David Ferman once again demonstrated his prowess by winning both the impromptu 7-ball and 5-club endurance contests held while the judges deliberated.
The Late Night Cabaret, MCed by Brandon Ross and Nicole Hamilton, included 11 acts. Highlights included Dan Garrett with some novel magic tricks, David Cain's toss to head balance with miso soup bowls, David Ferman's very technical set featuring 5, 7 and 8-ball juggles, and some unpolished but interesting acrobatics from Circus Harmony.
Toni Shifalo awarded Hal Baird an actual Mouse award this year, to compensate for the plaque he didn't get the first time around. Joyce Howard presented Richard Kennison (Circus Harmony coach) with a painting of a groundhog in recognition of his coaching no less than 14 Groundhog winners.
This year also featured several interesting workshops, including a mime/character workshop by Benjamin Domask, a "zaps" (1/2 turn club pass) workshop by Christian Kastner and a presentation workshop by Richard Kennison.
The weekend ended at Panahar restaurant, where 21 intrepid jugglers ate delicious Indian food, drank beer and told lies about how great they were.
Festival Report by by Charles Shapiro