IJA Clubs & Affiliates Newsletter - February 1995

USDJ Gets Involved

Bennett Kobb

"There is nothing quite like juggling and passing to our hearts' content, till the wee hours, in high-ceilinged rooms in ritzy hotels, while being plied with free-flowing popcorn, sandwiches and champagne!"
I thought I'd write down a few of the promotional activities we've done at the U.S. Department of Juggling (USDJ), an IJA Affiliate and one of four clubs in the metropolitan Washington area. Other clubs might want to try out these ideas, to expose the public to our art and to attract new members.

Our Benevolent Dictator is Becky Hunter, who keeps members informed through the chatty USDJ Propaganda newsletter. She keeps relations smooth with the D.C. government which runs the community center where we meet.

Besides the newsletter, we publish a flyer titled "Juggling In the National Capital Area" (enclosed) which lists updated contact information for the clubs. I'm going to expand the flyer to include new clubs in towns adjoining the metro area. We give the flyer out when we appear in public, and the Juggling Capitol store gives them to the many visitors who come for juggling lessons and to test-fly the merchandise.

Of course, when it comes to promoting juggling, it helps to have a full-time juggling-centric retail store in a major shopping mall. Juggling Capitol is very supportive of the local clubs; they provide practice space on the mall stage and make cash grants to our convention.

USDJ appears in Finding Fun and Friends in Washington, an annual guide that excels at self-promotion. The book's publishers love to showcase USDJ as an example of the novel organizations they discovered. It brought us a beautiful color photo in the Washington Post Magazine. We perform and teach at the book's promotional parties where we get overrun with people wanting to learn to juggle.

We also teach juggling workshops at Mensa conventions-an opportunity I highly recommend for juggling clubs. Mensa, the international high-I.Q. society, has local clubs everywhere that constantly host events. Chief among these are the Regional Gatherings (RGs) which are party, food, game and lecture events held at hotels.

Jugglers need not be Mensa members to put on workshops and demonstrations at these gatherings-just contact your local group (look in the phone book). There is nothing quite like juggling and passing to our hearts' content, till the wee hours, in high-ceilinged rooms in ritzy hotels, while being plied with free-flowing popcorn, sandwiches and champagne! Incidentally, some RGs present something called a "chocolate orgy," which is like an enormous all-you-can eat buffet, except everything is chocolate.

Summertime events include an outdoor music and carnival-like event put on by a local radio station-they invite us to perform and teach-and the July 4th celebration on the Washington D.C. Mall (the Smithsonian campus between the Washington Monument and the Capitol). We juggle and pass until the sun goes down and the fireworks begin. This is one of my favorite activities, as we get to expose lots of people to the club.

Together with the other clubs, we will hold the Continental Congress of Jugglers convention for the third year in May. It draws about 200 jugglers from around the region and receives excellent press coverage, especially by TV stations and CNN. We juggled on the morning show of one of these stations. Delightfully, they devoted lots of time to our promotion of the convention.

Although not really a public event, each winter we hold a Video Night at a member's home. We show the videos for the summer convention (the videos typically arrive in November or December) and host members from all four clubs.

There are three items of advice I would give clubs looking to do promotions:

Print an attractive flyer to give to the folks who encounter your club in public.

Acquire lots of, say, tennis balls - for use in workshops. Without them, the participants will have to juggle your own precious props. We have seen beanbags explode from exhaustion at some of these events!

Finally, frequently stop and explain what you're doing to onlookers and the media. Make them feel included and welcome to ask questions. Show how juggling is a growing hobby, sport and social activity. Soon you'll see new faces at your club meetings.

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Last modified: 4 January 1996
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