There is something magical about juggling, according to John Wisnieff, co-founder of the Newtown Juggling Club. “Magic used to mean the impossible, but now it means cool things you can do with practice,” he said.
Wisnieff recently moved back to Connecticut after spending several years in San Francisco, where he said there is an entire “juggling scene”. He said, “When you start juggling, your brain has no frame of reference. It is a wonderful magical feeling.”
Wisnieff started the club with his juggling partner Pam Patterson. They met one winter morning when she happened to be driving by with her son. “I was juggling in the park and Pam was so excited to see someone juggling in public,” Wisnieff said.
The two formed the club and have since juggled in various places around town. “The two of us were juggling in the snow. We had gloves on, and we juggled in front of Edmond Town Hall. That’s fun; people stop to watch,” Patterson said.
“It has been a wonderful experience,” Wisnieff said.
Patterson, now in her early 40s, started juggling when she was in middle school. “I had a field by my house and I found a bunch of golf balls, so I taught myself the “three ball cascade”. When I got older, I discovered YouTube videos that teach juggling tricks, so I learned through the videos.”
But juggling was a lonely business for Patterson, who had never known anyone else who juggled. When she met John, they started the Newtown Juggling Club. Patterson said, “We started juggling together, and we found a Meet-Up group, which has attracted people who were interested in juggling from as far away as New York. People love it.”
Patterson said that juggling is a little difficult to learn, but there is such a feeling of mastery, and there are many tricks to learn. “I go on a lot of business trips, and I bring my balls along. I will be in my hotel room, juggling with the tv on, and it gives me something fun to do.”
Patterson said that most adults pick it up very quickly. “I could teach you to juggle three balls in less than an hour. Kids take a little longer, but adults pick it up, and then you have this amazing skill.”
The club seems to pick up new members every week, according to Wisnieff, who said that people from all over the Greater Danbury area show up for the lessons and to juggle with the group.
“The club is so fun. It’s more than just juggling. We talk, we network, and it’s a good way to meet people,” Patterson said. Describing a recent visit to Dickinson Park, she said, “A swarm of people came around, and in no time there were 20 people around us wanting to learn.”
The club usually averages 8 to 18 people, with ages ranging from 8-60 year olds. Patterson and Wisnieff teach, and work in a circle so that everyone can participate, depending on their skill level.
One woman said her juggling skills of the last ten years have improved since she joined the club. Karon McGovern, speaking with a lilting British accent, said, “I think it is like playing the banjo or the ukulele; you cannot be sad when you juggle. And the people watching it cannot be sad. I juggle with balls at work, and it is a stress release. Now that I am a teacher, I juggle bean bags in the classroom, and the students wanted to learn.”
Saturday, June 16, is Worldwide Juggling Day. The Newtown Juggling Club will be celebrating at Pleasance Park from 7:15 p.m. until dark. “And then we have glowing things to juggle,” Wisnieff said. “Anyone interested in learning to juggle, both kids and adults, or who just wants to watch is welcome.”
For more information, contact John Wisnieff at email@example.com, or search for “Newtown Juggling” on Facebook. Worldwide Juggling Day has been organized on the internet by the International Jugglers' Association (IJA) in celebration of its founding in June 1947.