2011 PHIL Winners - Neil and Heather, Austin Bruckner and David Ferman

Lists of performers, sponsors, photos, videos and other details of the festival.

Winners of the coveted PHIL award this year were Neil and Heather, Austin Bruckner and David Ferman.

About 168 jugglers registered for the 33rd annual Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival February 4,5,and 6 2011. Friday started out a little light, probably because of the heavy rain and some sleet North of Atlanta which slowed many travelers. Highlights on the floor included a 5-foot walking globe and a short informal club-stealing workshop led by Florida's Amazing Kenny. Some high-school kids wandered through and got juggling lessons as well. By late Friday evening the floor was filling in with lots of people tossing, spinning, twirling, and riding.

Saturday morning started fast as folks poured in to the space. Several yo-yo ists traded tricks in the warm weather outside the gym, and inside large groups passed clubs. Feasts have replaced the old-style rotating feed as the default pattern for really large groups of passers.

Highlights of the day included unicycle jousting and unicycle tag, some advanced club passing by various in-town and out-of-town jugglers, and a three-man feed with torches late in the evening. Greg Cohen arrived to sell props; he'd been seriously delayed by the weather Friday night.

Nine intrepid jugglers competed for the coveted Phil award. The competition was overseen by our own Rodger French, a founder of the Atlanta Jugglers Association who has missed only a few of the 33 annual festivals. It started with the inimitable Seed and Feed Marching Abominable Band, led by long-time Atlanta juggler Bruce Plott.

Winners were the team of Neil Jordaan and Heather Marriott (Most Terrific) with a clean act consisting of lifts and artistic club juggling, David Ferman (Most Awesome) with a solid technical act which included a set of 5-club tricks, tricks with 7 balls, and a 7-club flash and Austin Bruckner (Most Superb) did some nice 5-ball work and a run of 7 balls, and finished with a 6-ring pull-down while standing on a 3-foot walking globe.

Other highlights included a fine dance-oriented routing by past winner Ashley Ellis, and Atlanta's own Keith McNeil doing some fine work with assorted props, including juggling 2 rings, 2 balls, and one club. The youngest competitor was Ian Willoughby, who turned in a fine basic performance in miniature.

The Midnight Cabaret took place in the gym this year. Steve Langley, the M.C. for the show, is soon to go to Italy to set the world record for most simultaneous paddleballs. That evening he showed his multitasking skills by keeping the show moving briskly.

Rodger French and the Deluxe Vaudeville Orchestra started the show off, with Janet Metzger singing some of the old classics, including "Brazil" and "Tico Tico". Other performers included John Nations, Kenny "The Amazing" Toombs, and "Playing by Air" -- the duo of Ted Joblin and Jacob Weiss. The most astounding technical juggling was a "dance-off" between David Ferman and Dan Brown, featuring tricks with up to 7 clubs and some serious break-dancing. Judy Thompson won the Mouse award for her sterling service at the registration table.

Sunday featured more amazing passing patterns, as well as a variety of informal workshops. Some of the topics included poi swinging, stilt walking, ball bouncing, and hoops/hula hoops. As people started to make their trips home, a game of club combat morphed into juggling field ball in mid-gym.

After a full day many of us retired to Panahar Restaurant on Buford Highway, where we ate scrumptious north Indian food, told lots of lies, and drank much beer.

Festival report by Charles Shapiro