Winners of the coveted PHIL award this year were Sean Petric, Zak McAllister and Cameron Ritter.
One hundred and eighty-eight registered jugglers attended the Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival, held in the Yaarab Shrine Center in downtown Atlanta February 3-5 2017. Friday night opened with a substantial crowd as props filled the air, old friends embraced, and new passing patterns evolved.
In response to recent events, a sign reading "Estimated Attendance: 1.5 Million" somehow appeared beneath the stage. One pair of jugglers did at least a few rounds of a 10-club passing pattern. Others worked on boxes, canes, diabolos, devil sticks, spinning tops, and other props. Food this year was exceptionally good, the work of a some able Oriental cooks who looked _us_ up instead of someone picked by the Shriners or solicited by the Atlanta Jugglers Association.
The Saturday afternoon games were hosted by Spencer Schwab. Cameron Ritter won the 3-ball Simon Says over more than 20 contestants. Max Housman took the blind 3-ball juggling prize. Perennial winner Jimmy Robertson won the club balance, performing his famous Seal Roll only after victory was assured. Ted Joblin took the Club Crown trophy (three interlinked clubs worn on the head while performing various stunts ranging from the bizarre to the insane). Zak McAllister won the Quarter Juggling competition, carrying home a good amount of change for his efforts. Christian Kloc and Matt Swope took the 7-club passing challenge, in which randomly paired jugglers compete for time juggling 7 club doubles. Zak McAllister also took the prize in the 5-ball endurance competition. Max Poff won the Ball Combat competition with a brilliant short-range ripost on Zak McAllister after it was down to two. Jacob Tichenor took first in the club combat competition.
The Groundhog Day Juggling Competition was opened as always by the Seed and Feed Marching Abominable Band, which played 6 numbers: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Brooklyn, Sweet Home Chicago, Malaguena, Gimme Some Lovin', and Soul Bossa Nova. Brandon Ross MCed the show.
Six jugglers competed for the coveted Groundhog Trophies, which this year were "Most Kewl", "Most Swell", and "Most Fantabulous". Zak McAllister went first with an act featuring a 5-ring pancake cascade, a six-ring cascade to pull-down, a 4-object Saturn Trick, and numerous others ball and ring tricks. Much of it was choreographed to "La Maquina de Escribir", a piece composed for orchestra and manual typewriter. His performance won him the "Most Swell" prize. Sean Petric's hat tricks, red vest, 3-club and 3-ring routines, and finale trick of a 5-ball juggle atop a balance ball garnered the "Most Fantabulous" prize. Body builder and juggler Cameron Ritter won "Most Kewl" for his chin-up with club balance, 3 to 5 club routine, and barbell chin balance. Also notable was Christian Kloc's dropless and near-flawless club routine, culminating in a lengthy 5-club cascade to 3-up pirouette.
The Saturday night Cabaret was MCed by Andy Ford. Nine performers entertained, including past winners Larry Vaksman and John Nations, magician Dan Garrett, local Meredith Gordon and former local Jonathan Perry. Highlights included Andy Ford's new ring tricks, Dan Garrett's "Magic White Board" trick, and Christian Kloc's wonderful ball bounce routine with 3,4,5, and 7 balls.
The official post-groundhog day dinner included 14 people in a nearly empty restaurant during the glorious run-up to Atlanta's eventual defeat in the Super Bowl. We got an impromptu violin concert before breaking up around 9 pm to head back to the hard, cold world.
Festival Report by Charles Shapiro