The Juggling Hoffmans

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Archive for the category “Party Entertainment”

4 Reasons I Hate Pinatas

Pinata for Birthday PartiesFirst, let me apologize to pinata makers and everyone who has ever had a pinata at their party. Why, you ask, do you reserve such ire for the festive pinata? Let me explain.

It’s not like I have something against the traditional donkey or modern iterations of Sponge Bob, Angry Birds, or Princesses. It not that children get prizes or candy. Let it be known, I’m a big fan of candy. It’s about chaos. For the neurotic, hyper-vigilante worriers like me, this article is for you.

1. The Weapon

Can I start with the premise that you give an 8 year old a bat, then blindfold him, then tell him to swing as hard as possible? Sure. What could possibly go wrong? There’s a reason there is a whole pinata segment on America’s Funniest Videos.

2. The Impenetrable Object

Many of the new pinatas are made from cardboard instead of paper mache. Not just any old cardboard; the type of cardboard that could withstand re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Give that 5 year old a chainsaw and we might get some action.

3. The Waiting Candivores

Don’t forget to add in a line of anxious children waiting to pounce on the candy should the blindfolded person actually crack the pinata code. No danger there of a misguided toddler (or six) wandering into the path of an oncoming bat train.

4. The Crying

Finally, the big kid down the street steps in and breaks the pinata open. Candy for everyone, right? Next is like a scene from the Hunger Games. Only the strongest will survive. Kids get pushed, fingers get stepped on, and that big kid, with his Lebron James-sized hands fills his basket and claims victory, leaving the masses in tears.

So, maybe I worry a little. It’s not so bad, you say? If you must, here are a few things that will make the pinata experience more fun for all.

The pinata

If you have the time and ambition, make your own pinata. Check out these sites for tips on making a few different types. By making your own, you can control how easy or hard it is to crack the pinata and can control the type of object need to break it open. This will deal with problem 1 and 2.

http://www.stormthecastle.com/how-to-make-a/make-a-paper-mache-animal-pinata.htm

http://youtu.be/SXRvxB0lZws

http://pinataboy.com/hook.html

The rules

Kids don’t listen to rules when there is candy involved. The boundaries need to be clear with rope, cones, or police barrier tape. Try having one boundary for the swinger with a buffer zone then a boundary for the watchers.

The helpers

Try to have at least 3 helpers for the smack-down. One person can be positioned with the bat holder and highlighted in an AFV video, one for the on-deck batter, and one (or two) for the rest of the kids.

The prizes

Tom Hanks said in the movie A League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in baseball!” Because I’ve spent my life making kids laugh at parties, I’m not a fan of having them cry there, either. There are a few ways around it.

  • You can station a few “even-uppers” with bags of candy to help out the slower or more timid to fill their bags. It works, but some kids might still feel pushed around.
  • You can fill the pinata with toy coins or other objects. Instruct the kids to collect the coins and fill a nearby collective jar. Once the jar is filled, they each get a bag of candy or other prizes.
  • You can label an object in the pinata with each child’s name on it. When they find their object, they can get their bag of goodies.
  • You can prefill bags of candy inside the pinata labeled with each child’s name.

That’s my two cents on pinatas. What’s yours? Share your pinata story with our readers here, good or bad. We would love to hear from you!

How to juggle 4 balls

We encounter lots of people that can juggle 3 balls, but can’t figure out how to add that extra ball into the pattern. Challenge yourself and learn to juggle 4 balls this summer. Check out this video then let us know how you do.

World Juggling Day Video

Here is a quick video of our World Juggling Day Celebration. I hope you like it.

Happy Summer!

We are so happy summer is finally here! So much, in fact that we made a short video in celebration. We hope you like it!

Worst Juggling Blooper

juggling fireOK. We aren’t perfect. We occasionally drop our props or forget our lines or start on the wrong cue. Fortunately, we are comedy jugglers and have ample drop lines to rely upon or can make the mistakes into opportunities for self-deprecating humor. This blooper was beyond all of that. At First Night Wilmington on the cusp of 1997, we share an event that was clearly our biggest blooper of all.

We arrived at the check in station in Wilmington after a long ride and performance at First Night in Dover. In Dover, we were greeted and escorted to a well-lit, well-suited space for our performance and again greeted by both a Site Supervisor and a professional Sound Engineer to set up and man a sound system for us. Not so in Wilmington.

We were on our own to figure out where to park and how to lug in our equipment. As was mentioned in a previous post, we were happy to be performing at the Christina Cultural Arts Center only to find out that while we were inside the building, our audience was outside, standing in the cold. There was a huge picture window between us and our audience. Fortunately, the organizers realized there would be an issue, so they set up a sound system for us. Unfortunately, we might have been better off if we had used two soup cans and a length of string for communication.

That set us up nicely for what we had to do to keep the audience’s attention. With lots of events and performances happening simultaneously, the fact that they had no seats and were standing in the cold, we knew we had to something special to keep our audience from walking away.

We decided to do shorter shows than previously scheduled. Getting volunteers from the audience would take a combination of sign language and charades expertise since no one could understand a word we were saying through the sound system. (Think Charlie Brown’s teacher.) We figured we had 20 minutes worth of show that included juggling and nonverbal communication and NO talking or at least 20 minutes we could fake our way through.

After searching for a while, we finally found someone who appeared to be a supervisor or at least that’s what their walkie-talkie seemed to suggest. We asked if we could juggle fire. They replied with, “I guess.” That was good enough for us.

For the cards we were dealt, the first show was going pretty well. I prepared the torches. The audience stared in anticipation. Michael nodded and we set the torches ablaze. The crowd on the street swelled as Michael did his thing with the fiery sticks. It was going great. And then…..

The smoke detectors sounded their annoying beeps and the alarm in the building blared. We quickly blew out the torches and started our walk of shame outside. It would have been bad enough if we were the only ones in the building. But, we weren’t. A crowd of about 50 people poured down the stairs. We interrupted a jazz singer, in a beautiful blue satin strapless full length gown, who was right in the middle of a set. She was not happy.

By the time we got outside, most of the crowd had dispersed. With increasing volume, we heard police and fire sirens approaching the scene. Michael tried to tell one of the fire fighters that it was just us who set off the alarm; there was no fire. The man shoved the dude with the knickers and the bow tie aside and went about his duty.

We sat down in an alley, full of embarrassment, trying to decide what we would do for a living after this.

As it turned out, the professionals cleared the building for re-entry, we performed 3 more shows that night (without the fire), and got hired again for the next 5 years at First Night Wilmington.

We don’t juggle fire that much inside anymore except for certain venues. It is ironic that libraries allowed us to juggle fire in their buildings while fire companies did not. Hmmm…

We are fortunate that we have had so many years to juggle together (20 to be exact) and perform for so many and have not once burned anything down.

Worst Juggling Venues Ever

Children's performers Through 20 years of performing, we have juggled on big beautiful stages with perfect lighting, ample space and sound engineers at the ready. We’ve performed at a home with an 18-hole golf course, an estate where the mom didn’t know how many hired help she employed, and at a party so elaborate that I couldn’t imagine what they would do for the child’s 4th birthday.

Then there were the “wanna get away” times where the space or the conditions were nearly unbearable. Nonetheless, they give us some good stories to tell. In no particular order, here are our top ten worst spaces under which we have performed.

In a doorway. We performed for a birthday party at a pizza place in Chadds Ford, PA. They invited 40 people and filled a 15 X 25 foot room leaving no room for us. When we passed clubs, one of us was inside the room, one was out and could only juggle as high as a standard door frame.

In a basement with pipes hanging down to create a ceiling under 6 feet high in a box infested space surrounding us on all sides.

Upon arriving to a birthday party in the pouring rain, we were told to do the show outside. When we told them we couldn’t, they said they had no space indoor. They were nearly right. We juggled in a 8 X10 foot room with 20 people, a desk, and a TV with 7 foot ceilings.

In several spaces that were lit as if by soft candlelight where night vision goggles were warranted just to locate our props.

In an open field in Elkton, MD with winds gusting to 35-40 miles an hour. The wind sent our keyboard and stand crashing to the ground, rendered our sound system useless, and required Bernie Parent-like reflexes to prevent getting bonked in the head with the juggling clubs.

Street performing at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore when it was 98 degrees with 98% humidity at noon and nothing but pavement and brick all around. It was so hot that no one could sit on the concrete benches to watch us and I could feel my sneakers melting if I stood in the same place too long. I only wish I was exaggerating. (That was the last time we did street performing.)

Outside, next to a generator-powered moon bounce with no electricity for a sound system at a festival in North Jersey. If you didn’t know, generators are really loud.

First Night Wilmington has, by far, provided the top worst spaces/conditions under which to juggle.

In 20 degree weather when I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes despite extra socks and gloves. It didn’t help that I was pregnant at the time. I was waiting for my fingers to shatter like glass every time I caught the cold, hard plastic juggling clubs.  At least a smile was frozen on my face.

At the Wilmington Library between 2 tall shelves of books when the whole library was packed. I think we were stuck between the  book titles “Dream Careers” and “Who Moved My Cheese.”

The worst of the worst was when we were assigned the space inside the Christina Cultural Arts Center. That wasn’t the bad part. It was just that our audience was outside on the street. No problem, there was a sound system. Except, the sound system that they provided projected our voices out to the audience reminiscent of the sound of Charlie Brown’s teacher.  That night actually got worse, but that is the subject of one of our blooper posts still to come. Stay tuned.

(We performed at First Night Wilmington 8 times and we did get to perform our show in some nice venues and on some gorgeous winter nights. They just aren’t as entertaining to write about.)

After 20 years and thousands of performances, we were bound to run into a few conditions that weren’t ideal. But, as they say, the show must go on. And on they did. We still juggled. The kids still laughed. And we collected more comic stories to put in our juggling scrapbook.

Costume Changes

party entertainment

Over our 20 years performing, we have had a number of costume changes. While many are variations on a theme, there have been a few pieces that have been sprinkled in along the way. In all but the first year or two, a couple of accessories have remained constant: our Chuck Taylor Converse All-Star high tops and our black derbies. We are so attached to both, we incorporated them into our logo.

clown shoes

Our Converses have gotten more comments from more people through our career than any other thing we’ve worn. They weren’t as popular as they are today when we first started wearing them. Adults remark that they wore those when they were teenagers and kids pull up their pant legs to reveal the common footwear bond between us.

Derby hat children's parties

Our black derbies were at first a fashion statement, but have turned into an important part of our identity as well as our favorite, most portable juggling props. We started with cheap ones from Kmart and now sport 5 triple thickness, not to mention heavy, made-for-juggling derbies.

kids shows kids parties

After a year of wearing grown up clothes, like the vests, we switched to a more clown-like costume. I wore overalls while Michael wore knickers, suspenders, and a bow tie. Michael managed to trash his costumes at a twice the rate I did which forced me to spend more time doing one of my least favorite jobs – sewing.

children's shows

I have to say that my favorite material was the first one. I really like the colors. It also signified a time when we got serious about making juggling our career. (The irony is not lost on me that we got more serious as our costumes got less so.) But, it was also the costume that I wore when I was pregnant with both of my children. Fortunately, it was big enough for a 7 month pregnant body. And very fortunately, there are no pictures available to prove it.

clown overalls DSC_3396 DSC_3397 DSC_3403

To break things up, we occasionally wore these “old man” pants with suspenders. We found these size 44-short matching gems at Goodwill and just had to get them.

children's entertainers

Michael wore a shirt and tie when he juggled at more “grown up” events like at gala fundraisers or behind the bar at Café Scalessa.

birthday parties

That brings us to our current costume. We shed our clown-like costumes for a little more sophisticated fun look. I fell in love with the material then promptly turned over the sewing duties to a professional. I can see being in these costumes for a while.

party entertainment

I hope you enjoyed the journey through our costume history. Which one is your favorite?

Bounce House Safety

Moon Bounce Safety RiskBack in the news this week are some startling figures about the number of injuries to children while in bounce houses and slides.  While most of them are minor, like broken bones and sprains, there have been a few reported fatalities and the injury numbers are on the rise.

Like a lot of injuries, many are preventable.  Injuries resulting from jumping in a bounce house are no exception.  Here are a few things to keep in mind if you rent a bounce house for a party or event.

The Company

Compare bounce house rental companies. Ask about insurance and length of time in business.  Get referrals from friends.  Ask about the condition of the bounce house and whether it comes with trained staff to monitor the children and the bounce house. The cheapest rate is not always the best deal.

The Children

The number of children that can safely bounce at one time will depend on the size of the unit.  Ask the operator the maximum number of children recommended for your unit.

Equally important are the ages of the participants.  It is not safe or wise to pair 10 year old children with 3 year old children.  Their size and weight differential plus their balance and ability can make for unsafe conditions for the younger children.

The Weather

Make sure the weather conditions are suitable for safe operation. Wind can pick up or blow over a bounce house if it is not properly anchored tossing the structure and the children inside.  Wet weather can make the smooth surface slippery.

Adult Supervision

With all that goes on at a party, it is easy to let the children go and play.  If there is no trained operator that comes with the unit, it is important that there is adult supervision.  Many of the injuries reported can be prevented by monitoring the number and age of the children in the bounce house at one time, encourage safe behavior within the unit, the safe entry and exit of the children and the overall condition of the weather and the condition of the unit itself.  If the power accidentally gets turned off, the adult can help children safely exit the unit before it collapses.

Don’t let accidents spoil the fun.  Take the needed precautions and have fun!

Related Articles:

http://bounce-house-safety.tumblr.com/

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/bounce-houses-party-hit-kids-injuries-soar

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57554184/bounce-houses-injure-a-u.s-child-every-46-minutes-study-finds/

http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/26/health/bounce-house-injuries/index.html

How to Choose a Children’s Entertainer

There are several factors in choosing the right entertainment for your party or program and questions to ask both yourself and of the person or group you are requesting information.

Is the program designed to educate or entertain?

Are you trying to reinforce or introduce children to a subject or activity?  If so, ask how this presentation achieves your objectives. Or, are you looking to just delight children with a funny, lively, or theatrical performance?  For either purpose, ask what takes place during the show.  Ask if the children are required to sit quietly or if it is interactive.

What age group is most appropriate for your presentation?

Entertainment designed for the preschool set is likely to make a 4th grader gag. Conversely, interactive activities designed with the motor skills and capabilities of a 4th grader in mind will frustrate both the children and the presenter (and likely the other supervising adults).  If you are dealing with a mixed age group, ask how the entertainer will accommodate all of them.  Don’t be afraid to ask the presenter for examples of other similar groups they have entertained.

How long is the show/presentation?

Most performances will be between 30 minutes and 1 hour with the majority falling closer to 45 minutes.  Several factors will help you determine the right amount of time for the performance. At a fair or birthday party there may be games, food, or other activities to engage children during a set amount of time. This contrasts with a summer camp or library program with a designated time set aside for a show.  The other critical factor is the age of the participants.  While some 2 year olds will sit for an hour and some 10 year olds will only sit for 20 minutes, the younger the age, the shorter the presentation unless the activity is very interactive.

How many children can you accommodate?

If you are charged with entertaining 200 children and the program works best with 20, you didn’t find the right fit.  Some programs will require more assistance from adults.  Find out what is required of you during the performance.

What are your equipment and space requirements?

You want to determine if the entertainer will require from you a sound system, tables and chairs, access to electric, or special equipment of any kind.  Find out if the performance can be in a living room, outside, or with a low ceiling if your space is limited.

How long do you need to set up for the show?

If the “stage” space is shared, either by other activities or another performance, you will need to determine how much time is required to both set up and break down the space and schedule the entertainment/activities accordingly.  Ask if the audience can be present during set up if that is required.

What is the cost for the performance?

Ask if the cost is per performance or per person and if it includes travel time. If you would like to have multiple shows, ask about a multi-show discount. If you are booking through an agent, you will likely be paying the agent and the performer.  Book the show directly with a performer whenever possible.  Find out the terms of the agreement.  Many will require a deposit.  Ask what the procedure is for booking a performance and the lead time required.

 

You are entrusting this person or group with both your entertainment and the children.  Ask for references, especially from venues and people that have hired them back. Check out their website and Facebook pages, if they have them.  Make sure you are comfortable with the tone and message they are portraying.

 

Resources:

 

www.Partypop.com

www.Merchantcircle.com

www.Yellowpages.com

www.Superpages.com

www.Gigsalad.com

Or, Google children’s entertainment and your city or state.

Painted Faces on Parade

Image

Anyone who has gone out with little ones probably can remember a time where you were at a fair, or a zoo or some other place or event where there was a face painting booth. From my own experience when I was young, there was no way I was walking past that booth without getting a butterfly or something painted on my face and I had a whole arsenal of reasons why I needed to get it (I probably would have made for a great lawyer with my skills in persuasion!). But why wait until you go a carnival or something for a little face painting fun? You don’t have to be very artistic (although it certainly does help) to face paint. All you really need is some paint made for the face a few brushes, and a little imagination.

Something that I would certainly suggest is investing in an inexpensive face painting kit like this one:

Image

Face painting kits are perfect because they usually give you at least your primary colors plus black and white (this one happens to also include green). They also generally come with a paint brush and a small face sponge as well as a book with picture ideas and sometimes step-by-step instructions. However, it is not crucial to the face painting process to buy one of these kits, just rather helpful in my opinion. If you have brushes of your own feel free to save some money by following this recipe for home-made face paint with ingredients you can easily find around the house.Before you start painting, make sure the recipients face is clean and dry or else the paint will last as long.

If you aren’t exactly the creative type I certainly suggest looking up easy face painting designs on-line. Many times it is a lot easier to paint a Spiderman face or a pretty flower or whatever is desired if you have a reference picture. Try easy designs like these:

Image

If you are really adamant about a lack of creative skills there is still another option for you. Stencils! You can either buy stencils are your local craft store or print them out on-line. If you buy them at a craft store they will likely be more durable as they will be made from a soft plastic rather than if you printed them at home you will really only get one use for each stencil.

Image

Another important thing to keep in mind when face painting is allergies. If you are unsure if someone has an allergy do a small test patch on their hand about an hour or so prior to painting. Most people don’t have any issues but when in doubt it is always a good idea to be safe and check in advance.

A few other tips and advice:

  • Have a towel or a roll of paper towels, you’re going to need it to clean off brushes and wipe off small painting mistakes
  • Have a cup of clean water handy so you can clean your brushes. Make sure you change it out for new water frequently too so it doesn’t get too murky.
  • Consider mixing colors on a paper plate to get more variety in your color pallet
  • Glitter is a fun addition!
  • Make sure the person who is getting their face painted is able to sit still long enough to get the painting completed. All of your hard work would go to waste if you only got through half a butterfly before the child wanted to go play!
  • Make sure you allow enough time for the face paint to dry after you’ve painted it. This means you should explain to the child not to touch his or her face for at least 10 minutes or so.
  • Most importantly, have fun with it! Face painting doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be fun.

This post was brought to you by the Juggling Hoffmans. Check out our website at www.jugglinghoffmans.com for the perfect entertainment for your next party or event!

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