Sunday, August 31, 2008

Stepped on....twice

After a crazy windy day we were blessed with an even crazier windy day. However, the non windy parts were calmer than yesterday...the windy parts were off the chart.
The schedule had us on stage at noon following a local band. The band had virtually no time to set up after the Swan Bros. By the time they were set they had 30 minutes to do a set then we would go on with no set up time. (The scheduler goofed.) Well, the band ignored the schedule and stepped on our time by 30 minutes. If we went on when they finished it would've still taken 30 minutes to pull their stuff and set ours before we could the manager asked if it was OK if we just canceled the noon show. We did. We sent out the pink gorilla and the clown as strollers to at least do something during our scheduled spot.
The Band was back on at 1pm and due off at 2pm so we can set up for our 2:30. At 1:59 he was introducing one of his sub-acts and according to the sound guys he was still supposed to do his own personal song to close his act. The MC, the sound guy and I all realized this guy was about to hijack the time slot and step on us AGAIN. So just as the band-guys sub-act finished...the exact moment the last note played, the sound guy with the MC, the manager and my blessing cut power to the band guy's mic. The MC then started making his announcements for the fair as the band guy quickly realized he was cut off. He turned his head quickly in the direction of the sound booth and signaled for his mic. The MC signalled back, "see you at 5:30") . The arrogant band guy learned a lesson today.
In my experience over the years pro-performers do their best to stick to the schedule and even if it isn't their fault they will apologize if they step on another performer's time. This guy didn't apologize...very similar to the guy in New York who stepped on us...except the New York guy was really good....the guy today was an acceptable amateur (talent-wise).
No pictures today because the battery died midday.
Dinner was a rare trip to a sit-down joint. We usually don't go to sit down joints because you have to wait a long time for service, for the food, etc. Then you have to pay more than if you do the grocery thing. Then you have to tip (I like tipping for good service but that is extremely rare.)
Tonight dining out lived up to my expectations. We went to Jerry's in Fallon. We seated ourselves. Got our own menus. The bus-man over filled my coffee to overflow and ran off to get a towel to clean it up. He forgot one place setting then one water. The waitress took about 10 minutes to even realize we were there. Then kid's menus had to be searched for. The order was long in coming and then arrived in two waves, incomplete. The happy face pancakes had only a blob of butter on them...the noses, I think? the strawberry pancakes had no berries or whipped cream...they arrives in a bowl later. The kid's drinks came at meals end. And my coffee cup ran empty.....once......never had a chance to run empty twice. It took a 5 minute wait at the register to pay for our meal.

News to waiter and waitresses everywhere....I tip 50%! Really I do. But if you are sloppy, slow, forgetful, wasteful or lazy it begins to shrink. In spite of her 5% performance I gave her a 13% tip...reluctantly....Cynthia suggested a dollar in an upside down glass of water.....The furry of women. I should mention that the bus boy apologized for errors...the waitress never did. what is up with manners these days? wasn't a great day. But it gave me a story to write down here. There is one story from this week that I will only hint at but decorum keeps me from being less than cryptic. Two nights ago sleep for me was interrupted by the neighboring room and the activities therein that lasted from 4am until 6am. Wow. the energy of some people. It's a story.

This fair feeds the entertainers. yesterday it was pizza. Today...really wonderful homemade spaghetti! I ussually lose weight on the road.....not this trip.

Clowns Bands Fire and Wind

Victor Posing near our backstage tent with water and pizza provided for us by the fair.
Princess' Olivia and Amelia take in the Swan Bros show
The Swan Bros.
In this candid shot you can see Princess Amelia's new toothloos look. Now we really do look like we come from Oroville.

Day 2 in Fallon, NV. Not much to report except that it was windy today. Many vendors had to refasten their tents..having been in many East-coast and Mid-west thunder storms we had the advantage of knowing how to tie down our changing-room tent securely. Wind in the Nevada Desert is hard and dry so we all used lots of lip balm. And our hair is pretty crispy dry by night fall.
Our biggest challenge this week has been to re-create a show without Jugglin' Jim. He has been such an important part of the show and part of the show character is lost without him. We have even had a couple of people who saw us last year ask about Jim. Without Jim we also have to find 10-20 minutes more material to fill his spot. So far so good. We have been very well received and the comments after the show have been very nice. Good size audiences too.
One hard start today was when our show and the tiger show started at the same time. (A group who teach and entertain with Bengal tigers is here.) Let's face it the mere presence of tigers whether performing or just there will have that natural draw from curiosity. Thankfully there act is short and when finished we got their whole audience. Still we started that show with around 50 people who specifically wanted us.
The Swan Bros have arrived. They are a pair of real brothers who do a lot of goofy silly things and skillful juggling. They have been performing here for many many many years. They have their local fan base. Nice guys too.
The band tonight needed the time that was set for our last show (a 30 minute show slot) to set up so we just performed a cool fire-eating and fire-whip routine. The crowd went wild for the fire. Perfect setting: it was dark. Not the perfect whether: the wind. One back blow from nature engulfed my face in a ball of flame once and my left sideburn lost a little bit of it's fullness. (Not the first time to have this happen...I know how to handle it...respect the flame!)
Miles knocked them dead with his fire whip and the giant fireball it creates. Miles also has taken Jim's sound man duties very effectively.
I almost forgot about the “lunch-box” auction. Just like in the olden days. It was a fundraiser for the local boys and girls club. For a donation via auction you won a lunch made by local restaurants or others and dine with a local celebrity.
Got a call from Jugglin’ Jim today…it was touching…he wanted money for books….ah, college kids.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hearts of Gold

Dance group doing, "Thriller"
Th Pink Gorilla advertising the Hearts of Gold Cantaloupe Festival and Fair t-shirt.
Notice Amelia has lost her first tooth.

Phil the sound guy and Tim and his wife.
The kids playing in the hay maze.
The stage.

We arrived in Fallon this afternoon, checked in to our hotel and went to the Fairgrounds. I was surprised that our good friends Zippy and Hi-tops wasn't there yet (They make up the brother team of the Swan Brother's Circus). Turns out that someone erred in the schedule and the Swans will be here tomorrow. That and the fact the band showed up so late caused the powers to be to ask us to do one LOOOOOOOONG show. We did a 90 minute show (and didn't loose a soul from the crowd).

The band, Nevada Hazurd (spelled that way), are pretty good. The drummer is an amateur magician. There was also a local dance group of teens. (That is what the fair is all about.) The dancers even put on makeup and did Thriller.

The kids goofed off in a small hay-bale maze and made a few friends while the big kids and I set up the show.

Phil and Matt (the sound guys) and Tim and his wife (the MC) from last year are here again this year. They are really nice and we have similar senses of humor.

During the show we introduced Victor's new "World's Strongest Boy". Like all new tricks it will take a while to develop into a great trick....right now it's just OK.

During the show some kid used a laser pointer to disrupt me so I said, "Whoever is pointing that laser better knock it off before I come out there, find you and cram it down your throat." The audience burst out in applause. I followed up by saying, "and they will help me!" More applause. After the show a BIG burly man told me he and another guys found the boys and took care of them....I just said, "Thanks"....I hope the kids aren't dead.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nevada Short Tour

A Short tour is a tour of one or two gigs lasting a week or less. We are heading out to Fallon, NV for the Hearts of Gold Cantaloupe Festival. it is our 2nd year. It sure was fun last year so we are really looking forward to it this year. The small trailer (the one which had the broken axle at the start of the Eastern Tour) is back in service with a new stronger axle. Turned out the spring had broke and that led to the trailer smashing onto the old axle bending it. All is new now and it's all loaded up. With Jim off to college the Miles and Princess Cynthia had to learn the hard way how to balance load a trailer...they had to unload it then reload it to get it right.
The trip is only about 4 hours so as far as driving goes it's an easy gig. The weather promises to be 15-20 less than home (tomorrow should be 106 degrees here at home base).
Princess Amelia lost her first tooth today so she will look like a hockey player for this gig. A very cute Hockey Player.
Pictures and stories from the road start tomorrow.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Modoc Wrap Up

Sliding on cardboard on the grassy hill behind the staage as the sun sets.
The really nice BBQ guys. Gold bless them.
The Henry Riffle and shot gun raffle///I love this fair.
Voice of the fair.
Strange bug...a sphinx moth larvae.
Indian Taco.
There was a lot of this consumed by most of the adults here. (Not us)

Between shows in a sand box provided by Kid's Town America
The Wylde Side (Notice the drummer has a bag on his head.
These guys are from our hometown and they were a lot of fun...talented too.
This fly strolled a table I was sitting at for about 10 minutes without flying away. You could get within a half an inch of him with out him moving.
The ant (kind of hard to the tail of the hornet) was pulling this dead hornet across the parking lot.

Sorry for not blogging sooner but the last two days of the fair found the hotel with router problems and hence no Internet.

Outside the big dance on Saturday night we drew the biggest crowds at each show. Being a small town and county (population-wise) it was good we rotated three shows because we had a number of repeat audience members (I call them stalkers). I suppose it is good sign when so many come back time after time.

The announcing duties (Voice of the Fair) went smoothly except when the line I used started to garble each time I used it (the amp is over 25 years old with large knobs like the old gas stoves, and the mic wasn't much younger) we changed lines then discovered the mic had a sweet spot...if you kissed the mic (Put your mouth against it) and spoke directly into the dented spot on the top the sound would go out over the PA. Problem solved.

The BBQ people were tremendously kind to us. They even made up 5 sandwiches to go at the end of the fair. And I gotta tell you thems was good BBQ!

The pack up was a bit slower than usual as the kids had been a bit sloppy in the pre-load prep.

But we did get it loaded and were on the road. This area is famous as the drive-way for Burning Man, a drunken pagan sex drugs and rock n roll event in the Nevada desert attracting people willing to pay the $400 gate fee from all over California, Oregon, Washington, and Canada All over the world really). So all along the hwy way down the mtn. we passed overloaded vehicle after vehicle on their way to the celebration of the soullessness. No doubt who was who because they dressed the parts in goth, mock-hippy, mocking (anti-)Christian, unwashed, matted hair, kilts, nearly naked, ripped and torn, etc etc costume. At the gas station in Alturas everyone of them in line in front of us bought liquor and exotic cigarettes. Not one drove a Prius. There were converted old school buses, campers, rusted cars, expensive cars, modified campers, home-made campers, several vehicles pieced together to create a camper like thing, etc.

Thankfully we made it off the hill and home before midnight...tomorrow (today) was the first day of school.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Modoc Fair day 2...the heavy schedule

No pictures today. Yesterday had one hour show and some strolling and he announcing duties were light. Today was the polar opposite. We had three one hour shows, one 30 minute show, and three hours of strolling plus the announcer duties. It was fun. The little one found some time to play in the sand box for a while.
At every fair we befriend many people. At this fair the BBQ vendors next to our stage have become good friends. Their BBQ pork is out of this world and Cynthia loves their tri-tip sandwich (she hates BBQ until now).
This fair had an event I've heard about but have never seen until today....the greased pig contest. A bunch of greased piglets are let loose and kids are set loose after them. They get to keep the pig they catch. The technique to a successful catch is to get the legs and hold it. The pigs are then put in a gunny sack and taken home.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Modoc Fair day 1

Victor and the Turkey...Victor is on the left!
The girls and the Clydsdales...they are huge! (The horses not the girls).
The old town recreation on the fairgrounds.
This area is interesting...look at the background...looks like the high desert...then there is green grass and trees. It's a mixture of desert and forest.
At the park we visited the hornets had made a nest in one of the kids toys.
(The farmers out here say that the increase in hornets in the area means it is going to be a cold wet winter...also read in the news last night that 2008 is the coldest in over 5 much for global warming....I'm going to believe the hornet who God sent before I believe Al Gore who the Devil sent.)
Guess where we are at.

Some fairs have car shows....this fair has a buggy show.
Princess Olivia tries to get a better look at a pig.
This is a picture of the kids.

The fair starts at 5pm we slept in, ate, played horse-shoes, found a local park and hung out there and still it was just noon when we got to the fairgrounds. The set up was fast since we didn't have to set up a stage or backdrop (a plus for work but a minus because we like to maintain a constant standard and that is taken away when we use a stage provided and the back of that stage whatever it may be). Still the grass around the stage is lush and green, the weather comfortable with a slight it was easy to hang out here until show time.
I used the time meeting the vendors ( I am the "voice of the fair" so I have to announce the acts and events and tell about the vendors and stuff) and finding out about them so i can tell about them over the PA during the fair.
Princess Cynthia spent her free time typing papers for school (she is in AP classes and had summer homework). James, Miles, and the kids found various activities around the stage and around the fair to keep themselves busy. The little ones and I and Jim took a tour of the fair. There is an old town recreation on the fairgrounds with old buildings, vehicles and tools. We also visited the Budweiser Clydesdale exhibit.
We had only one show today and it started off a little weird. There was a big BBQ going on in our area and most of the area in front of the stage was set up for Pic Nic table dinning. So when our show started people were mostly gathered for eating. We would have to win them over. Then there were the ones who gathered especially for the show. They were won over before we even started. (I should mention that the crowds tonight were very sparse... we are in a town of 880 people and the next town is 30 minutes away and it is a Thursday).
We opened with the Nail in the head followed by the sword suspension...we won everyone over and lost knar a soul. In fact we gathered crowd up until the Spear Box Climax nearly an hour later.
Miles, Jim and Cynthia each did strolling tonight. As they did that I took the youngins to the commercial building (Olivia is only 2 but fully understands the concept of the commercial building and even asks to go there by name.) The commercial building houses the vendors who sell products or are there to promote a program or company. There are always free stuff like pencils, coloring books, candy (we have stopped the candy intake) stickers, water bottles, rulers, bandanas, toys, etc etc etc. They made out like bandits...especially at the Forestry table with Smokey Bear everything! Then we found a sandbox in a kids play area and castles, mountains and tunnels were built.
Back at the hotel we are eating and watching the Olympics. Good night!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Corporate gig - camp - Modoc

Pre show at the camp. The stage is tiny but we were able to work it out.
Sierra Nevada Company Pic Nic Hopfest.
On the drive from Oregon to Cedarville, CA we were stopped for construction (a 40 minute wait). Here is what we were forced to look at that whole time. Ugh, it was so beuatiful.
On our way out of the camp.
Blackberries growing among the poison oak...The poison oak are the dark leaves to the left.
Bryan the camp director. Parkway Church Children's pastor.
Poison oak up close. Some people don't know they have berries.

Since the last posting we have mobile once again. Last week we launched our end of summer west coast tour with a corporate gig, a company pic-nic so larch it is more like a festival. The company was Sierra Nevada Brewing company. It's the 7th largest brewery in America; largest single owner brewery; nearly 100% self reliant for electricity (the have solar and hydrogen cells). The event was for their 1000 employees. We brought our own stage and treated the whole thing like a fair show. We even provided strolling. Our stage was right next to one of the three beer trucks dispensing six different brews from the company. That much beer (I was told 35 kegs were made available for the day) by the second show there were a lot of well pickled employees and spouses. No trouble makers; in fact most seem to be really friendly, lovable drunks. One man even told me he loved a non-gay drunk-guy kinda way. The audiences were great and the client was pleased. We had fun.
A quick stop by home with a day lay over gave us the chance to rid us of the 1000 lb stage we were carrying and reloading. Refreshed and ready we took off Tuesday morning to preform at a Christian Camp in Glide Oregon (kinda in the south of Oregon). The drive took only 7 hours (only??!!). The weather was the best. It was in the mid-70s and the mountain air was quite, cool, and crisp. The camp was for foster children around the area. many are orphans or have experienced bad family experiences. They were a fabulous audience. One little boy, Levi (he had a orange painted hairdo) was mesmerized. His eyes danced as the show progressed ( he was in the front and easy to see.) He came up on stage to help with my money trick (Miser's dream); he was thrilled and really into it. He also finished one of my lines during the show: during the introduction of the bed of nails i talk about the science of the stunt referring to a melon. If a melon is set on one nail it would be pierced. If it were layed on a bed of nails it would be supported and barely damaged. If you add more weight you get watermelon juice. If you pound on it you get....Levi said aloud as though he weren't even aware..."Watermelon salad" brought laughs...even from me because that was my next line. It was cute. We should adopt that kid.
We dined with the campers and got to sleep at the camp and have breakfast there. The food was great, the beds were like rocks and sharing a dorm like camp place to sleep is only for the very young.....not the best sleep. In fact, at 6:30am we were awakened by (our room was across from the nurses station) howls and cries. A college aged kitchen help had sliced the tip of her thumb off. (I saw her later she was bandaged up and in good spirits...she also apologized for waking us.) Seems rain has been following us this season. A light rain fell Tuesday while we loaded the show up. It made the mountains smell great. The camp bordered a small river and along the river were the Himalayan black berries so common in the west...and tastey. The berries grew among a three leaved plant with little white know poison oak. Discouraged picking the blackberries.
Wednesday (today) was a casual drive a couple hundred miles to Cedarville, CA where we will perform at the Modoc District fair. It's our third time out; Amy and Olivia's first. We dropped the trailer off at the fair and have been spending a casual evening watching "Ghost Hunters" and the Olympics. We were forced to use the lousy 10% ethanol gas in Oregon (state law) so we lost over 1 mile per gallon in much for green. You have read my rants about that so I will not put you through it.
Cedarville is over a mile high and is kinda like high desert with pine trees here and there. It's supposed to be cool all weekend.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wrap Up Eastern Toour Part 2 (yes I spelt tour with two "oo"s

I left off at arriving in MN. We arrived in Cambridge, MN the day before our shows started in the late afternoon. The town,like many towns, has the new section (Walmart, Menard's, hotels, etc etc) and the old section (Post office, shops, banks, old buildings, cool stuff). Cambridge is small. We drove into town and I noticed the Wlamart, etc on the left we drove right by the fairgrounds on the right. (The kids noticed it.) We checked into the only hotel in town (it was very nice). And since the parking lot was small decided to take the trailer over to the fair right away.
When we arrived we realized that the double event tent they had planned for us was going to be tight. In fact, if we used it we would have to set the stage up outside in fear of bumping our heads on the tent frame and tent itself. Also much of the juggling would have to be cut. Fortune would have it that a marine-life display, which was to be set up in this larger pavilion area called the kennel building overstated their size to the fair and would be a better fit under the event tents. Likewise our show was better suited for the high roof and open conditions of the pavilion. So it was set we had an awesome stage spot. We parked the trailer and the rest would come tomorrow.
The rest that night was the best...maybe because we crashed early. We were up early enough though (we were getting used to the time change by now.) We got tot he fair set up and were ready to perform by midday. All three shows were packed. in fact every show every day was packed. I was told later that over the years they have been trying to find something to draw a crowd to that part of the fairgrounds. With us, I am told, they found it. They were very pleased and we were very pleased with the crowds. The mid-west audience is very different from the Kentucky audience...a bit more reserved. But no one left during any show and like all fairs we do we had a few kids and adults who came to every show! At the Isanti fair we had a chance to try deep fried cheese curd...haven't seen it any any other fair in any other state...too's good! Deep fried tacos were on the menu as well...mmmmm! Pork chops were another big fair food up here.
The fair came to an end too fast and we had two days to get to New York. I didn't look forward to the 1000+ mile drive but it turned out to be easy and relatively quick. The roads in MN aren't that great (cold winters and a legislature that ignores the infrastructure to make time to pass stupid laws...there is a dragooning "no spanking" law in MN and kids can turn their parents in...the parent gets jail time. Did I mention that I heard more cussing by teens and tweens and saw more disobedient kids in MN than anywhere else? Especially after coming out of KY where kids say "yes, sir. No sir, etc"
We made New Paltz New York just about an hour from the PA-NY border. The area is covered with beautiful hills and rivers and green. Hamlets and villages, as the towns are called out here, dot the highway. We arrived late afternoon so we had another restful night due to an early turn in.
My entries on the blog about NY cover it pretty good. It was an awesome experience. A CT amusement park came out to check us out for the 09 season. We had packed crowds and the manager extended an invitation (much the way the other events did) to come back next year. it would be fabulous if it works out that we can get back there. My humor clicked very well with NY audiences. EVERY SHOW WAS PACKED! Like all the events we had rain, sometimes deluges, and even then we pulled crowds.
Like the other gigs the week flew by and we were on the trek home. It was exhausting...but there was a lot to do at home and I missed my wife. It's over a week since we have been home and we have our next set of mini-tours (Cumulatively called the West Coast tOOur) starting this Sunday. We loose Jim for a few of the shows as he settles into college. Miles starts High school, Amelia starts Kindergarten, and both Amelia and Victor start new schools.
They will miss a few days here and there but they always end up doing quite well.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Eastern Wrap-Up Photo Essay

After the fair...NY...hard to belief several thousand people walked these paths just 8 hours earlier.
This Canadian Soldier held onto the windshield for almost 10 miles. We are traveling at nearly 65MPH and he held....then he didn't...this pix was taken through the glass from the inside.
At rest stops we have fun. Here the girls are having the traditional jumping contest.
This is Western Kentucky Univ. Mascot an a cell tower or water tower??? He's cute.
A small zoo came to the Ulster fair with lemurs, kangaroos, a black leopard and more.
Saddam Husein lives and was at one of our shows. (He is sitting in the back row of the big stage area that backed up to our stage. At some of our shows this area was packed with people watching our show. This pix was taken 15 minutes before our show.)
Loading up time for the big kids is recharge time for the little ones.
Cheesy fries in NY

A mouse loose on the Wild Mouse at Beech Bend Park.
Set up day at Isanti MN fair.
Christian Bikers hanging with Magic Mouse.
It's hard to tell but true to east coast fashion when it rains it pours. The rain is coming down hard. The chairs were completely dry 2 minutes earlier.

Manager Doug's girlfriend and local radio talent and all around crazy woman...
Resting before the gates open at Beech Bend park
One of the awesome (albeit cheesy ) ghouls at the authentic 1950's spook house at Beech Bend.
Super model Princess Amelia.

Woolly Bear Caterpillar
Practice in KY.
Magic Mouse gives the awesome juggler, Wade Henry, a high five.
Magic Mouse meets the gang!
Weird bug outside our backstage tent in KY

Victor Jr
From the road
A monument to Lincoln you can see from I-80 in NE (I think)
Making bowls into hats and other cool things happen in our van.

The Western Tour Starts this Sunday with a corporate gig that is as big as a festival-fair. The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company has us performing at their company Hop-fest. This incredible company is based in Chico, California and grows it's own ingredients. It has a spectacular restaurant and tours. Then it's up to Oregon for a Church
Youth camp and then to the Modoc District in Fair in Way northern California.