The Cascade Jugglers of Seattle, Wash., have a couple of advantages over most other loosely knit, anarchistic groups like themselves. They've got the power of Jugglebug, the world's largest manufacturer of equipment, in their back yard. They've also got a cozy 10 year relationship with the Seattle Center, a beautiful downtown mall in which they practice and hold events.
When the Cascade Jugglers planned their National Juggling Day activities last summer, Jugglebug helped assure its success with substantial publicity support.
"It's nice to have Jugglebug as a sort of corporate sponsor," said Cascade regular and individual winning teacher Darryl Toomey. "It didn't hurt that Dave Finnigan gave away free scarves to everyone who showed up for our morning juggling class."
More than 125 people showed up in the Seattle Center for that class, which Finnigan led, and hundreds more passed by during the day to learn to juggle or simply watch the activities.
With a goal of signing up 200 new jugglers before they left, a core group of four people stayed at the center until 11 p.m.! Those four were Toomey, who won the National Juggling Day individual prize by signing up 99 new jugglers, the group's current leader, Halina Kiljanczyk, Lee Church and the youngest member, 9-year-old Channa Hay. Kiljanczyk said Hay was quite an asset to the cause. "She did good job with young kids who thought they were too young to juggle, and also with older women. They just sparkled when they saw the young girl juggling."
When the final tally was taken, 247 people signed the forms saying they learned to juggle on National Juggling Day through instruction from the Cascade Jugglers.
National Juggling Day was just the latest success for the Cascade Jugglers. Finnigan catalyzed the group when he began Jugglebug in nearby Edmonds about 10 years ago. He arranged for the Seattle Center location and was the club's prime mover for many years, stressing the teaching of juggling. "From 1980-83 it was a highly publicized event with lots of coverage. We would have 150 people every week, two-thirds of whom were there to learn to juggle," explained Finnigan.
But he got tired of teaching juggling all week with Jugglebug and the Juggling Institute and then showing up at the Seattle Center on Saturdays to teach juggling again with the club. He gradually turned over the reins to other club members, who gather now mainly to juggle together rather than to teach. Club member Todd Strong took the initiative to the group affiliated with the IJA in 1983.
The club has no dues nor elected officers, and does not sponsor a regular festival. But current spiritual leaders Diana Francis and Halina Kiljanczyk say there are a couple of secrets to maintaining cohesion in the group. "We keep in touch with a telephone tree, and we go out to dinner every week after practice," said Kiljanczyk.
She says most group members dine together after their 3-6 p.m. Saturday meetings. Meeting in a public area also provides excitement, public interaction and spontaneity that might be lost if the meeting were in an isolated location.
She says the location is a mixed blessing. "When I talk with other jugglers who are dealing with rising costs of insurance, I feel lucky," she said, adding that the Seattle jugglers have not had to face this matter at the Center. "But we do have to put up with non-private place to practice. Sometimes new jugglers are a little intimidated, and some of the more experienced performers don't like to be seen practicing."
The gathering attracts 25-30 in the summer and a few less in the winter. While some people may question the wisdom of a Saturday afternoon meeting, Kiljanczyk pointed out that almost everyone has that time free and it allows out of towners to attend.
Individuals work individually for most of the day, with people like Toomey and Matt Cantrell pitching in to teach basics or tricks. Toward the end of the day club passing begins, and meetings end with a giant feed. There are occasional announcements to relay information on upcoming individual performances by members. They include Toomey, Matt Cantrell and Andy Demetre (the strongest technical jugglers in the club), John Delahunt and Kiljanczyk. Two group members perform regularly in their work with the Juggling Institute -- Allan Tilove and Linda Sievert.
The most successful Seattle area jugglers are probably the Young Gentlemen Jugglers, Robert Stuverude and John Webster, who spent this summer performing at San Francisco's Pier 39.
Seeing the banners and logos of other affiliates and groups inspired the Cascade Jugglers to plan for their own insignia and t-shirts, Kiljanczyk said. "They gave was a real feel for the different regional members and we'd like to be a part of it."
They're also planning to develop an Cascade Jugglers championships award to present at conventions beginning next year. The Cascade Jugglers also have the distinction of more IJA Life Members than any other affiliate, as the four-member Toomey family are all Life Members along with Finnigan, Alan Tilove and Dick Curtis.
Wearing a ten-gallon hat and an "I've given 15 gallons" pin, Myron Wilcox walked the convention floor urging members to give blood and let him know about it. "Bob Nickerson called me long distance telling me he gave that day. He sure sounded good about it," said Wilcox.
Send him a card and let him know how much you've given! Wilcox and the IJA encourage you to pass along a gift of life. Write 550 W. Fairhaven, Porterville, CA 93257. 209-784-2424.
"If you really care, if you really love something, you give the one most precious thing you have to give. That's your time."
Otherwise, we add, send money!