Entries tagged with “MadFest”.


The Ultimate Battletop Championship is a contest that Alan Gray, Eric Wolff and I designed to see if upper lever top-spinners could break each other’s tops.  So far no one has managed it, but we’ve realized that we would need crappier tops.  In order to get the best players to participate I decided that we needed an awesome trophy.  So for each contest I make a mechanical trophy where one top breaks another top, and the winner gets to keep it forever.  Here is the trophy for this year’s contest at the MadFest Juggling Festival in Madison WI.

First the video:

Then the photos:

Trophy for the 2011 Ultimate Battletop Championship: Wisconsin by markhayward534, on Flickr

Trophy for the 2011 Ultimate Battletop Championship: Wisconsin by markhayward534, on Flickr

Trophy for the 2011 Ultimate Battletop Championship: Wisconsin by markhayward534, on Flickr

Trophy for the 2011 Ultimate Battletop Championship: Wisconsin by markhayward534, on Flickr

Yup.  That’s right.  I made a new trophy for this year’s contest at MadFest:

Yup.  I think I finally have all the parts I need.  This photo actually has quite a few projects in it, including the machinery for the pumpkin laser vortex… but that’s another story.  And yes, that is a Barbie hair dryer.  This trophy will be for the 2009 Ultimate Battletop Championship: Wisconsin, and it’s gonna be awesome.  You can see it in person if you come to MadFest.

I love hanging out with spin-top people. It’s always a ton of fun, and at MadFest this year we had a ridiculously good time.

Eric Wolff with his 11″ diameter top. The largest he’s ever made… so far.

For the average person, the phrase “spin-top people” is not one that is heard very often. Of all the very small social groups I belong to, the top-spinners are one of the smallest; I think only “paddleballers” are fewer in number. At the MadFest Juggling Convention this year we had a really good showing of spin-top people… and that means that there were 7 of us. Eric and Noah Wolff, Alan and Robert Gray, Chris Mulhall, Steve Brown and me.

The normal progression of events when top-spinners get together is:

  1. Show off new tops. This rarely takes very long since there are virtually no mass-produced tops, so it’s really a question of who had the time to make some themselves.
  2. Show off new tricks. This also rarely takes long since there are very few new tricks developed each year.
  3. Play Battle Top.
  4. Continue playing Battle Top until it degenerates into a different game that is way more fun.

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Having just finished another great MadFest juggling convention I have come to a better understanding of why there was such a controversy over the popularity of the Chris Bliss video that swept the internet a while back. (If you haven’t already seen it, check it out here before you read the rest of this article.)

MadFest is the annual regional juggler’s convention that is held each January in Madison Wisconsin. I have helped organize it to one degree or another since it started. For the last six years I have been in charge of the Public Show.

This year, as usual, we had a fantastic show. We had great jugglers like Luke Wilson (Brittish, living in Germany) and the Dew Drop Jugglers (Minneapolis/St. Paul MN) and we had great variety acts like The Rope Warrior (Chicago) and the Flybar Pogo Stick Demo Team (Chicago/Ohio), and sold out our 1300 seat theater once again. It’s always a challenge convincing people to go to the show, but once they go they are usually astonished at how great it was. For the most part, once people have seen the show they make it a family tradition to go every year. Initially it was frustrating to me that people didn’t seem to believe me that the show was going to be good enough to be worth seeing. I eventually got over the fact that not everyone thinks juggling is as cool as I do, although that never seemed like the whole story. This year I think I have seen the light, and my frustration has changed to a slightly different form: I think that American society no longer believes that live entertainment is worth the trouble.

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Tomorrow I leave for Madison WI to start the ramp-up to the MadFest Juggling Festival.  I have to go earlier this year than usual because I will be doing a radio interview on Tuesday morning (at 6:30 am… ug) on Z104.  As usual I’m really looking forward to the fest, and a bunch of my favorite people in the whole world are coming, so it should be a blast.

Also, we will once again have the Wisconsin State Yo-yo Contest at MadFest this year.  Unfortunately, this was the year of starting everything later than I should have, so there aren’t many details up about the contest yet, but that should change soon.

I just watched what may be the best juggling clip-video I have ever seen. It was done by Vova Galchenko and Mark Bakalor as a contest entry for Fat Boy Slim’s new video for his song “That Old Pair of Jeans” There was a lot of frustration in the juggling community when the video of Chris Bliss juggling to a Beatles song swept the internet a while back. This new video will (I hope) show you why.

After shooting the video of Fat Boy Slim’s song “That Old Pair of Jeans” with Chris Bliss, a call went out for jugglers to submit their own videos juggling to the same song. While there is no live audience in Mark and Vova’s video, it is SO much more interesting than Chriss Bliss’ performance with the same track, and it shows so much more of the potential of great juggling. This is not a totally direct comparison since it is an edited production vs. a (basically) live performance, but I think you will see my point. Make the comparison for yourself.

Check out Mark and Vova’s video.

The Chris Bliss version on Fat Boy Slim’s website. Click on Video.

My thoughts on the phenomenon of Chirs Bliss juggling to a Beatles song (w/link to the video)