The streets of Durango will be filled with freaks this weekend, but dont avert your eyes they want you to stare.
Circus-types from all over the country are in town for the inaugural Juggling Fest. There will be jugglers, yes world champion jugglers, mind you but also contortionists, unicyclists, fire spinners and acrobats.
The lineup has a lot of diversity, said Erin Stephens, a Durangoan who most locals may recognize from her juggling performances with the Salt Fire Circus.
Stephens is a board member of the International Juggling Association and the driving force behind the creation of Juggling Fest. Its her contacts with the association that will bring high-profile performers. to town.
I went to my first festival at 14 and it changed my life forever. I knew what I was meant to do with my life, Stephens said.
I wanted to bring that same level of inspiration to others that I had.
Its a star-studded lineup, whether the stars are household names or not. There are the jugglers: Matt Hall, Thom Wall and Doug Sayers, who have won multiple national and world championships. Kevin Axtell and Bekah Smith bring an artistic flair to juggling and then theres wunderkind Christopher Haaser, who at 9 years old already is a big draw on the festival circuit.
Joining them will be contortionist Ember Bria, ball spinner Bri Crabtree and Matthew Poki McCorkle, whose hoop isolation act falls into the category of must be seen to be understood.
Brad Westons collection of acrobatic parlor tricks has earned him spots on, among others, David Lettermans and Ellen Degeneres television shows. Stephens also will perform with her Salt Fire partner Mark Stampfle as Project Air-Craft. Durango Mayor Michael Rendon, a gifted juggler, will get in on the fun, too.
There are a couple of semi-organized events, including tonights Renegade show at Steamworks (adults only) and Saturdays main event, the Public Show on the Fort Lewis College Theatre mainstage. In between, there will be several informal performances on street corners, along the Animas River Trail at the FLC Homecoming parade and in bars and restaurants downtown.
Only the most moribund among us wouldnt have fun with something so whimsical as a Juggling Fest, regardless of age. But Stephens said she hopes the festival will draw young people in particular in the hopes that some may be inspired to follow a similar path. And parents, relax shes not going to try to convince your kids to run away and join the circus.
She does, however, teach the art of juggling to local kids; she just doesnt make unrealistic promises about juggling as a career.
Its not the way I make my living, but its always an element of my life, she said.