Instead of hunting for eggs this Easter weekend, a group of Santa Barbara jugglers will be throwing them, along with balls, batons and torches at the 30th annual Isla Vista Jugglers Festival.
The festival runs from April 14-16 and will feature a silent auction and open juggling sessions at Robertson Gym on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The juggling demonstrations run from 7:30 p.m. to midnight on Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Attendees at the sessions will also receive lessons from expert jugglers.
The festival will also feature a variety show with magic acts, comedians and jugglers at I.V. Theater from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday. Local magician Mark Collier, who recently won the Strolling Magician of the Year award from the Academy of Magical Arts, will perform at the show along with other local entertainers. The shows costs $5 for students who buy tickets in advance and $8 at the door, proceeds from tickets, T-shirt sales and a silent auction during the festival will go to the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center.
The event is held every year in remembrance of Patty Laney, a 21-year-old former UCSB student and women’s rights advocate who was raped and murdered in 1977.
Laney was the third victim of a serial rapist and murderer who was later convicted and imprisoned. Alena Donovan, community education coordinator for the Rape Crisis Center, said the festival is meant to celebrate Laney’s life, rather than mourn her death.
“It’s really wonderful to have an event that focuses on joy,” Donovan said. “It’s lots of fun and it continues to keep her spirit alive.”
Matthew Thornley, a local juggler and event organizer, said the festival is now the longest running juggling festival in the nation and attracts jugglers from around the country. He said the event is run on a very small budget, but it usually raises at least $1,000 for the Rape Crisis Center.
“We’re really on a shoestring – we have about $1,500 in our account,” Thornley said. “We end up pulling together one or two thousand [dollars] for the Rape Crisis Center through T-shirt sales and admission sales to the [variety] show.”
Donovan said the money raised at the festival helps maintain the center’s 24-hour hotline and fund rape prevention programs at local high schools.
Donovan said Laney was one of the original volunteers who helped start the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center in 1974. Laney also worked to educate local residents and students about rape, and she worked on creating a bus line from I.V. to downtown Santa Barbara at a time when most students without cars hitchhiked to make the trip.
“The other two victims were kidnapped while hitchhiking downtown,” Donovan said. “It’s really tragic that Patty Laney was a victim of the man she was publicly fighting against.”
The festival has always focused on Laney, Donovan said, but this year jugglers will also be celebrating the life of Laney’s friend and fellow women’s rights advocate Charlie Jones. Jones, who passed away in September 2005, helped create the juggling festival. This year, the show at I.V. Theater will feature a slideshow of pictures of Jones and Laney to commemorate the lives of both jugglers.
Thornley said the Santa Barbara Jugglers Association hosts the event now, but that has not always been the case.
“The festival was originally organized by the Strombolis, a local juggling group,” Thornley said. “Then it went to the UCSB Juggling Club, now to us.”
More information about the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center can be found at the center’s website, www.sbrapecrisiscenter.org, Donovan said. He said the center’s crisis hotline is bilingual and strictly confidential, and can be reached 24 hours a day at (805) 564-3696.