Over 300 juggling enthusiasts brought their balls, batons and benjamins to the 30th annual Isla Vista Jugglers Festival this weekend, helping the event raise thousands of dollars for the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center.
The festival commemorates the life of former UCSB student Patty Laney, a volunteer for and co-founder of the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, who was raped and murdered in 1977. Event Organizer Rebecca Thornley said the festival raised approximately $2,000 for the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center through a silent auction, T-shirt sales and ticket sales for the juggling demonstrations in Robertson Gym and a variety show at I.V. Theater. She said the event, which ran from Friday through Sunday, is the longest running regional juggling festival in the world, and had its highest attendance this year since 2000.
Matthew Thornley, who helped organize the event, said the increase in attendance came as a surprise.
“We had a lot more locals this year than before, which helped out a lot,” he said.
Rebecca Thornley said approximately 300 people attended the Saturday night variety show, which featured world-champion jugglers and comedy-juggling acts. Award-winning local magician Mike Collier hosted the show, which also raised the most money out of the festival’s events. During the show’s finale, Collier impaled himself on a meat hook and then hung the hook on a chain suspended above the ground.
“It was an experimental piece he was working on there, that was completely unique,” Matthew Thornley said. “We won’t see that again. … That’s a one of a kind.”
The open juggling sessions, which were held throughout the weekend, drew an eclectic crowd of seasoned juggling veterans and newcomers to the pastime. Jason Garfield, a world-renowned juggler and creator of the World Juggling Federation, set up a booth where he signed autographs. He also performed a short demonstration at the variety show.
“Jason is a fantastic juggler, a very original guy,” Matthew Thornley said.
At the show, Garfield performed his famous trick, “the ass-catcher,” where he juggled four balls at once while throwing one through his legs.
The festival also helped educate many novice jugglers. Breen Tanksley, a freshman at Santa Barbara High School, said she learned how to juggle at the open sessions on Saturday.
“My dad’s been coming to this festival since before I was born, but my first success was here,” Tanksley said.
Tanksley’s impromptu juggling teacher was 23-year-old Ricky Yarnall, an Orange County native attending the festival. Yarnall said he thinks his decision to drive from Orange County to Santa Barbara for the festival was worth the gas money.
“I’m like totally addicted [to juggling],” Yarnall said. “Sometimes [my friends and I] even juggle on our lunch break.”