Ann Arbor Juggling Arts Club
Bruce's account of the 1998 Congress of Jugglers

The Congress of Jugglers was great fun; here's the scoop, or what I remember of it. Mike, James, and I drove down there together friday, the 8th. It's about a 9 or 10 hour drive to the DC area, so we missed the first day of the festival. We dropped James off with his folks, then went to my place to crash. The next morning we were off to the festival. It was at the College Park campus of the University of Maryland, and they had a big gym, with vendors, registration tables and so on against one side, and the rest open for juggling, unicyling, and whatever else people were into. There were people doing all sorts of crazy stuff; there were plenty of good numbers jugglers, of course, and lots of club passers. I learned a couple new club-passing patterns, my favorite being a pattern for four club passers which involves a lot of moving around, vaguely reminiscent of square-dancing.

The public show that night was great fun; some of the acts were pretty rough around the edges, but there was so much variety I never minded. Four students from the local University of Maryland did a cute club-passing routine that started with two people passing six on a 2-count, then had the other pair come and steal some of the clubs, but keep passing them around in the same pattern, just with extra gaps. The two pairs moved around but kept their timing in synch, which was a cool effect, and meant they could put the two patterns back together at the end. They also did some other nice 4-person passing patterns. There was a very elegant piece by a guy named Greg Kennedy that involved manipulating a long piece of rope with a ball on each end; hard to describe, but it looked great. One person did these amazing 4-ball tricks involving very complicated combinations of multiplexes and kick-ups. There was expert unicycling, dazzling traffic-cone manipulation, tastless humor.... I couldn't begin to remember it all.

I went out to a nice local pizza place for dinner with some high school friends, and we made it back to the gym in time for the night-time fire juggling, which was beautiful. In addition to the usual torches, there were flaming juggling balls, and there were a couple people doing these very impressive sort of baton-twirling moves with a big long staff with flames on both ends.

The next day was the games: a timed unicycle obstacle course, in which the last-place finisher won a consolation prize for doing the whole course by wheel-walking; a contest to see who could juggle 3 wet soap bars for the most catches, which everyone had to try, but was always harder than expected; a club-gathering contest, my favorite, where you are fed clubs at a great pace and have to hold as many of them as you can between your legs and under your arms; 3-ball blind juggling endurance, where at least one person showed he could juggle 3 balls without looking indefinately; 5-ball, and 7-ball endurance competitions (the 5-ball endurance competition was declared a truce when it was realized the last two people could have gone on for hours...); speed club passing (how many passes can you and your partner make in a 2-count in one minute?); juggling 3 quarters (winner keeps all the coins!); combat (wow, some people are *good* at that game); and may others I've forgotten.

The games took up most of the day for me, and I had a great time trying so many crazy things (and, I'll admit, mostly failing). We spent another day sight-seeing in DC (another great reason to make this festival), then drove back to Michigan on Tuesday.