Youth Showcase in Cedar Rapids brings out fun in juggling

10 acts performed at IJA's annual showcase at the Paramount Theatre

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Nearly two years ago, Kyle Albrecht was just hanging out with a few friends.

The then 14-year-old was just celebrating a normal July Fourth, and an idea popped into his head.

Why not use the tennis balls they were goofing around with and juggle?

“I was bored one day with my friends, and I just decided that, ‘Hey, I throw tennis balls. Why not give it a shot?’” Albrecht said.

Albrecht stuck with it, and on Wednesday competed in the 70th International Juggling Association Festival Youth Showcase at the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids. The showcase featured 10 different acts from children around the country, all who had traveled to Eastern Iowa for the weeklong festival to compete, perform, receive instruction, and simply have fun with their fellow jugglers.

The festival attracts people from all over the country. Jugglers as far as New York City, California and North Carolina made the trek.

“Really, the IJA is all over the place, so we like to travel for that,” Ryan Waxler, the father of two competitors from Colorado, said. “And it’s the best venue to come to (for juggling). It’s a lot of fun.”

Albrecht was one of many competitors who had been juggling for just a few years, all of whom were trying to simply work on their skill and gain performance experience.

Once he got started, Albrecht said, it was an easy decision to keep working at it.

“I just wanted to keep progressing,” Albrecht said. “There’s a certain demeanor to (juggling) where you just want to get better and better. So I met some jugglers and I took some lessons, and they just helped me get better and better. I just wanted to keep learning.”

Getting to attend the festival, he said, is truly the best way to not only compare yourself to other jugglers, but to ask for help, too.

“It’s like when you’re at home practicing, you don’t really know how good you are until you get to see everyone else around you,” Albrecht said. “It’s so much fun just to be able to walk up to somebody and ask them for help. And, within the juggling community, everyone is up for helping. It’s awesome.”

The juggling festival will continue through Saturday, with events for jugglers of all ages and skill level.

So while Albrecht, and Waxler’s two children Zeke and Nathan, won’t be competing for any prizes or titles, that doesn’t matter to them.

They’re just in it for the love of juggling.

“For them, it’s just the youth showcase, it’s all fun,” Waxler said. “They like performing, they like getting up on stage and entertaining people. Someday, they might go on (and compete). Who knows where they’ll go?”

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