15th annual ‘Storyfest’ event is again a huge hit for county school children

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The 15th annual “Storyfest” event was held last Thursday and Friday at locations around Vevay, and again this year the event played to warm, sunny conditions that allowed the school children participating in Storyfest to walk from event to event.

The big attraction for this year’s Storyfest was the circus exhibit that was at the Switzerland County Historical Museum.

“Under the Big Top – Mighty Small Circus” exhibit featured intricately carved and painted figurines by John Mackay of Syracuse, New York.

There are more than 1,200 miniature animals, acrobats, clowns, and trapeze artists in the exhibit, which takes the viewer back to a time when the traveling circus came to communities to the delight of all.

John Mackay was fascinated with the circus, and in 1946 he joined a model circus builders group in New Jersey; and devoted the next 36 years to his hobby. He passed away in 1982, but his daughter shared his collection with the Tri-Cities Historical Museum in Grand Haven, Michigan; which created the exhibit that is now in display in the Switzerland County Historical Museum.

In addition to the circus display, the traveling exhibit includes life-size cut out figures, freak show posters, signs, circus props, wardrobe pieces, and music.

The collection is authentic in it features horse-drawn wagons; canvas tents, and other details that make this a truly one-of-a-kind exhibit.

Outside on the museum grounds, children had the opportunity to try out some circus skills: from spinning plates on sticks to walking on stilts and juggling scarves. A big top tent erected on the second floor of the Switzerland County Historical Museum allowed children to hear about the beginnings of the circus and other facts about the people who were a part of the circus.

On the main floor of the museum, Tony Catanzaro spoke with the children about how John Mackay carved the miniatures in the collection.

Not only was the exhibit part of the Storyfest event; but it now remains on display so that anyone in the community may stop by and view it during museum hours. Thanks to a grant from the United Fund of Switzerland County, residents may view the miniature exhibit free of charge.

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Another stop for this year’s Storyfest was the Historic Hoosier Theater, where Matt Jergens entertained students with comedy and juggling. Many of the students remembered Matt Jergens because he has been a popular entertainer at recent Swiss Wine Festivals.

Matt Jergens is one of the top jugglers in the United States, and at this year’s Storyfest he filled the air with flying juggling clubs, spinning plates, Chinese yo-yos, and a multitude of other unique props.

His show allowed students to come up on stage and participate in his tricks and talents, and each trick brought huge applause and screams from a satisfied audience.

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The third venue for this year’s Storyfest was the Switzerland County YMCA, where the Syrian Shrine Clowns performed.

The Syrian Shrine Clown Unit from the Cincinnati area provided delightful entertainment, from jokes to sight gags and other physical humor, which brought laughter to the crowd – especially when the clowns got the teachers involved in their act.

Along with all of the fun, the clowns also had a very serious reason for being at Storyfest, as their appearance helped to support the Sneaker Fund for burns research at the Shrine Hospital.

‘Chili Pepper’, ‘Spark Plug’, ‘Big Bob’ and ‘Razzle’ all got into the act during the show, and once they finished, the clowns took questions from the children about how they became clowns and other aspects of their performance.

The Storyfest event was made possible through a grant from the United Fund of Switzerland County, which provided the majority of the funding; and the Vevay Kiwanis Club, which also provided ongoing support.