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Jugglers perform, teach their skills in Lansford

The 12th Annual Pocono Juggle/Circus Arts Fest 2024 was held over the weekend at the Panther Valley Junior and Senior High School, Lansford.

The program was hosted and sponsored by the Panther Valley Junior/Senior High School Juggle/Circus Arts Club, under the direction of Rob Barowski and Kim Laird.

The weekend featured workshops and demonstrations from local people and people from around the country. There was juggling, unicycles, rings, hoops, and much more. A show was held Saturday evening to showcase the talent.

“For the normal person to come out and just experience this, it’s a wow moment,” Kim Laird said. “It’s like spending a day at a circus without having to pay to get in because all of this is free except for our show.”

The festival was held the first seven years in Lehighton. For the past five years, it has been held at Panther Valley. Barowski started a club in Lehighton and eventually it moved to Panther Valley. The members meet and the kids get to try out different activities that they are interested in. The club members learn a lot.

“The confidence it builds, it’s something, it’s you against your own abilities,” Barowski said. “It teaches these kids perseverance, it teaches patience, it’s relaxing, and it’s something different.”

The Pocono Festival was just one of many such festivals held around the country.

“There’s probably about 20 fests in the United States, juggle fests, and all over the place,” Barowski said. “Two weeks ago was Texas, and there was Atlanta, and there was San Francisco, and now us, and in July there will be one in Wisconsin, and it just keeps going.”

One of those visiting the area was Tyler Sharkey from Brooklyn, New York.

“They have a great show here with lots of local talent, international talent,” Sharkey said. “The Pocono Juggling Fest is always the spot to be from what I hear, so I had to check it out.”

Sharkey explained how he got into juggling.

“My father was actually a clown,” Sharkey said. “I grew up kind of within the environment. He was a clown, magician, hypnotist. I picked up juggling myself, started off with magic, so a couple of jugglers by the names of Hilby and Greg Kennedy, and that inspired me to start juggling, so I picked it up from there.”

Laird explained the draw that these festivals have.

“It’s about sharing the joy of juggling and circus arts because it has been found through scientific research that if you juggle, then the grey matter in your brain actually increases, which is what we need to learn,” Laird said.

Above: Rob Barowski, center, one of the hosts and founder of the Pocono Juggle/Circus Arts Festival, offers some pointers to some of the attendees. JAMES LOGUE JR./SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
P.J. Arroyo, left, from Ithaca, New York, and Carlos Lopez, from Lehighton, practice juggling at the 12th Annual Pocono Juggle/Circus Arts Fest at Panther Valley Junior/Senior High School in Lansford. See a photo gallery at tnonline.com. JAMES LOGUE JR./SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Right: Tyler Sharkey, from Brooklyn, New York, practices juggling at the 12th Annual Pocono Juggle/Circus Arts Fest at Panther Valley Junior/Senior High School in Lansford. JAMES LOGUE JR./SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS