Midpeninsula Post

Gunn High School’s “Game of Throws” juggling festival engages newcomers, veterans alike

Gunn High School's juggling festival in January 2023. (Yoochan An)

The Henry M. Gunn and Palo Alto High School juggling clubs hosted the fourth annual “Game of Throws Juggling and Flow Festival” last weekend. The festival — which attracted over 400 audience members, vendors and volunteers — included juggling performances, workshops and a gala show.

Organized by Gunn Japanese teacher Matt Hall, who has already led the “Game of Throws” three times during his time as Paly’s juggling club advisor, this year’s festival marked the first event hosted by both Gunn and Paly’s juggling clubs.

“When I got to [Gunn] I became the faculty advisor for the Gunn juggling club and I kind of talked [the club members] into it,” Hall said. “I said ‘Hey we used to do this… [do] you guys want to do it here?’ They said yes, and we’ve been planning this [event] for over a year now.”

Hall, who has been juggling for over 20 years, solicited help from jugglers from the Bay Area and around the world. Club members from both schools were integral in running the festival, and several students from Gunn’s stage tech program pitched in to help with the performances.

“Quite a few of us volunteered at the front desk, checking people in, getting people acquainted with how the festival worked, and because this was our biggest festival yet, there were a lot of new faces,” said Ethan Cheng, Gunn senior and juggling club president. “A lot of the club members also publicized [the event] on Instagram.”

For Cheng — whose interactions with jugglers had previously only come from school -– meeting and engaging with members of the international juggling community was an unprecedented experience.

“The community was amazing,” Cheng said. “[The jugglers] were very outgoing, very willing to talk to anybody and teach anybody anything. One of my friends who’d never juggled before walked up to a random juggler juggling hats, and I saw them talking and learning after just moments.”

For three-time world juggling champion Frank Olivier, the festival was an opportunity to catch up with members of the community after some time away, and to meet the newest generation of jugglers.

“I’m 62 years old, so I just want to see how badly I’ve been left in the dust by these kids,” Olivier said. “I came out to hang out with friends, to perform in the show and to get re-inspired.”

Juggling influencer Taylor Glenn, who has over 200,000 followers across Instagram, Youtube and TikTok, said she came to the festival to interact with the juggling community and sell juggling equipment.

“My favorite thing is learning juggling, and this [festival] has a great workshop lineup,” Glenn said. “I’ve already met a lot of people and talked to a lot of people who said they had a breakthrough on a pattern or a trick, or they learned a new prop. To me personally, that is one of the most valuable things you can get at all in life, especially in a juggling festival, so if I can help someone do that, that’s the best.”

Hall said the primary intention of the festival was to introduce new attendees to the world of circus arts and inspire those who were already in it.

“I hope attendees get out of the [festival] entertainment, relaxation, escape, and a deeper understanding of this thing we call the circus arts,” Hall said. “The goal is to share these arts with the Palo Alto community and as many people as possible.”

Cheng said he hopes that the festival provided not only access to juggling but also to the international juggling community and its members.

“I hope [the attendees] got the most out of the community as I did, learning new things, meeting new people, and seeing how welcoming it was,” Cheng said.

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