Juggling club shows off skills

— No red noses, rainbow-colored hair or face paint will accompany the Steamboat Juggling Club and We're Not Clowns winter show of the year at Olympian Hall this weekend.

On Saturday and Sunday, children and adults who have been loyal to the scarves and pins that go hand-in-hand will be the focus of playful storylines, improvisational skills and juggling talents.

Last September the owners of We're Not Clowns began a juggling club to teach novice jugglers necessary coordination skills. The club meets every Monday at Strawberry Park Elementary.

After months of training, children and adults are confident in showing their talent to the public and the juggling experts are there just to be goofy.

"Fifty percent of our storylines are improv. We're at our best when we make it up," said Scott Parker, co-owner of We're Not Clowns.

The proceeds of the show will pay for props and toys for the club. In order for the Steamboat club to be an official affiliate of the International Jugglers Association, 10 jugglers need to be dedicated to the club.

We're Not Clowns received the silver medal for juggling at the 53rd International Jugglers Association in Montreal last year.

As of now, Parker said about 25 people have come to juggle every Monday, but only about eight to 10 people create the nucleus of the club, those who have had a desire to juggle.

Terry Ostrom, who began juggling with his buddies in college, said finding owners who had their own bag of tricks was exhilarating.

"When I met Kelly and saw the equipment he had, I said, 'That's something Tyler needs to do,'" Ostrom said of his 10-year-old son. "We talked juggling for a bunch of time. (Kelly) got me excited about it, my kids excited about it and got the neighbor kids excited."

This year, the company said it hopes to do better in the 54th IJA Convention in Wisconsin. With grants from the Steamboat Springs Art Council, We're Not Clowns has performed about 25 shows during the summer at the Seventh Street Playhouse.

This summer may have more in store for Parker, Andrew Pratt and Kelly Anzalone, childhood friends from New York with the same frivolous disposition.

After the juggling club finishes April 16, a European juggling tour in the Netherlands, and street entertainment in Steamboat's sister city, Saas Fe, Switzerland, and Boulder sounds financially appealing to the guys.

Parker and Anzalone moved to Steamboat in 1996 to discover that donating time to the school district seemed like an easy and self-rewarding task. With the spirit of adventure, the two men set out to retrace the steps of Louis and Clark's expedition to the west.

Students had the chance to track Parker and Anzalone's adventure through the Internet with digital photos. As the two made their way west, problems with future technology forced them to leave the comfort of their car for mountain bikes.

With 900 miles left to go before reaching the coast, Parker and Anzalone began juggling in different schools along the way. Juggling in parks led people to believe that the two were clowns, but every time they were asked, the answer always became, "We're not clowns."

"We're big hams, we're not afraid of acting goofy," Parker said. "We don't call ourselves clowns because we don't wear face paint, but we act like clowns."

When they returned in 1998, Pratt headed to Steamboat to join his friends, who soon became Steamboat's juggling trio. Theater shows began upon Pratt's arrival.

Pratt's best friend's father was the president of IJA, so juggling and performing for Pratt became like riding a bike for other kids.

"He motivated us to do more performing," Parker said.

With the fall and winter dedicated to the juggling club, summer's are free to quit the other jobs and allow performing to direct their passion.

They're expecting about 100 people at Olympian Hall this weekend to witness the experts juggling matches, glow- in-the-dark toys and swords.

"They frown on (juggling fire inside)," Parker said. "But the glow-in-the-dark stuff is our favorite. The trails they leave are amazing."

With high ceilings and no lit torches, Olympian Hall not only will house the talent of We're Not Clowns, but also the inexperienced jugglers. The skit of the elementary school student jugglers will poke fun at the older jugglers.

"Works in Progress," this year's winter show theme, presents juggling, a surprise guest and poi, a ball at the end of a long rope that is held in each hand using spin and swing moves.

"It's hard to explain, you just have to come and see it," Parker said.

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