The Juggling Hoffmans

Caution: Show contains fun and excitement. Laughter may occur.

Archive for the tag “children’s entertainment”

The Almost Perfect Birthday Party Giveaway

birthday party ideasSnag a copy of The Almost Perfect Birthday Party: A sanity-preserving guide to planning a party your child will love when you enter the Goodreads giveaway going on now through Monday, Feb 3rd.

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They think it’s funny anyway

The kids are laughing. Maybe that’s the only thing that really matters.

Juggling 4 balls – basic variations

It’s toooooooooooooo hot to go outside today on the East Coast. Stay inside and learn some new tricks. Check out this video on learning 4 ball juggling variations. Haven’t learned to juggle 4 balls yet? Check out our other 4 ball juggling tutorial.

Let us know how you do!

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.

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.

The Juggling Hoffmans: Day One

The Juggling Hoffmans: Day OneMy legs were shaking.  My palms were sweating.  There were thousands of little drummers in my ears.   I couldn’t believe he talked me into this.  Everyone was staring.  I felt like a complete idiot.

“Hi, everybody!  I’m Michael!”

Please don’t say my name.  I don’t want to do this anymore.  I muttered to myself.

“And this is Lois!”  Crap.  I ran next to him on stage and tried to smile.

“And together we are The Juggling Hoffmans!”  Our arms extended into the air like we practiced a hundred times at home.  I was okay performing in front of Jiminy and Amelia, our sweetly fat and lazy cats, who just stared at us with utter indifference.  Now, in Atlanta, with 100 or more discerning eyes fixated on us, I realized the complete lack of judgment that got me there.

It’s not that I couldn’t juggle.  I just couldn’t juggle well.  With the honeymoon still lingering in my memory, my new groom, Michael got an invitation to perform at the Dogwood Festival in Atlanta.

“Let’s do it!  It’ll be fun!” Michael pleaded.

“No way!” I replied.

“You’ve been juggling for a year.  You’re ready.”

“Ready for what?  A complete surrender of my dignity?”

After several days of similar conversations and Michael’s unrelenting charm, I gave in.  The flights were booked and there was no turning back.

Piedmont Park both welcomed and taunted me. Every sensory receptor was in overdrive.  The juggling clubs in my hands appeared to be laden with lead.  The wind seemed to whip at hurricane force speeds.  And the sun’s rays were magnified as if ants were enacting revenge for a childhood indiscretion.  I knew it was going to be bad.

Soothing mantras alternated with paralyzing panic as I prepared for my first public performance since starring in Snow White in first grade.  I raised my hands to start.  Michael nodded.  Go.  Catch, catch, catch, drop.  Catch, catch, drop.  I was mortified. Drop. Would this day ever end?  As crying was not an option, I forced a smile on my face and kept going, throwing and catching, kind of.

Time stood still.  Surely, returning from Mars or waiting in line at the DMV couldn’t possibly take this long.  With each club I picked up from the ground, I wished to be swept away to a happier place.  Getting my teeth drilled while defending an IRS audit came to mind.

As the show came to an end, I was only slightly relieved.  The time for begging had begun.  It’s technically called busking or street performing.  Somehow, the fact that it was a centuries old tradition was not a real consolation. Like a seal clapping for a fish, I was begging for spare change.  When the crowd dispersed, I looked in the hat.  $3.25.

We had several more shows that day; some only slightly better than the first.  The terrifying feeling never went away. The embarrassment of dropping in front of all those people never got easier. My certainty that performing was a horrible mistake never waned.  When the last show was over at the end of the day, we packed up our things and headed for home.

I boarded the plane that day with $31.53 in my pocket.  It surely wasn’t worth the four hours of torture at the park and the three months of anxiety leading up to the event.  It wasn’t worth all of the hours I spent practicing before that call ever came.

I looked over at my husband.  He smiled at me with sincere pride, knowing well what it took to get me there.  With nothing left to hold back the tears, I cried.  I didn’t know then that I would spend more than 20 years of my life juggling as a career; that every child’s smile would fill my heart with joy; that all the subsequent drops would just turn into another chance to make kids laugh.

On that sunny, windy Atlanta day, everything changed.  Nothing would ever be impossible.  Nothing would ever be too hard to overcome.  That day, I became a juggler.  That day, we became The Juggling Hoffmans.

Budget Friendly Places

The previous entry was on fun places outside of the home that are good party venues. However, these places can get a bit pricey so this post is going to focus on more budget-friendly party locations. Just because a party is on a budget does not mean that it cannot be a fun and memorable one, quite the contrary actually! With fun activities and inexpensive decoration you can throw a great party just about anywhere! Here are some great party venue ideas for the budget savvy party planner in you!

1. Local Parks

Local parks are a great party place, weather permitting of course, because in most cases, it’s a free venue! Many parks usually come with picnic and/or playground areas to set up near as well as grilling stations. This is perfect for a lovely outdoor themed party or even just a fun BBQ. Be sure to check with your local park first before throwing your party there because some parks do require you to obtain a permit (sometimes for a nominal fee). Also, most parks to have regulations about what you can and cannot bring onto the premises so do be sure to look into the specific guidelines for your local park before your party date. Another great thing about parks is the big open space you have for guests to play in. This is great for setting up physical activities such as sports games or even a game of horse-shoe throwing. Parks generally have a carry-in-carry-out policy regarding trash so be prepared to cleanup carefully after your party.

2. Community Centers

Community centers are another great budget-friendly party venue because there are typically many to choose from in your local areas. Community centers often have great banquet rooms that can be rented for a low cost. You can make a community center party extra special by assembling a team of friends or family members to decorate the place and make it extra colorful and lively. Some community centers even have recreational rooms with things such as pool tables, ping-pong tables, Foosball tables, and more. These are great locations to bring in a party entertainer such as a juggler, balloon twister, magician or another entertainer of your choice. Most commonly you are responsible for the set-up and clean up for your party so make sure you review the guidelines of the community center of your choice. Most importantly though, have fun!

3. A Friend or Relative’s House

Do you have a close friend or relative with a really awesome house? Maybe a house with a pool, a great backyard or basement, or even one of those home movie-theaters? If so, consider asking them to be the host of your next birthday party! Of course you will be responsible for set up and clean up for the party but surely if the host is having a party in his or her home, they will want to at least participate in decorating! I suggest to bring a small gift as a token of appreciation for your party host for generously allowing the party to take place in his or her home. Having a party at a friend or relative’s house is great because you won’t have to pay a venue charge and you don’t have to worry about a suitable place in your own home to fit a bunch of energetic kids!

4. Community Pool

What child doesn’t love a pool party? Perfect for the warm summer months, hosting your child’s celebration at a community pool is a fun time for everyone. Parent’s get to relax by the pool knowing there is a lifeguard on duty to help supervise your kids while the party guests get to splash around and play pool games with friends. Most local areas have a variety of community pools including your local YMCA  branch. Some community pools to require membership in order to host your party there so make sure to check into that. One thing that most children have in common is that they love to go swimming so a pool party is great especially because it generally involves minimal decorating and stress!

5. Your Own Home

What could be more budget-friendly than hosting your child’s party at your own home? This is of course dependent on your home and if you can fit the desired amount of party guests. If your home is suitable for a party though it’s a great location because you don’t have to travel, pay a venue charge or follow any policies or restrictions other than your own. You have the freedom to decorate how you want to, clean up at your own pace, and invite however many people you can fit! This is a perfect place to hire a children’s entertainer to make the party extra exciting. With hosting a party at your own home you have the liberty of deciding exactly what you want and how much you want to spend, making this the most budget-friendly place of them all!

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