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Amazing, unusual acts grace the Busker Festival

Posted: March 3rd, 2017 | Arts & Entertainment, Features, News, Top Story | No Comments

By John Gregory

Seaport Village is prepared to host its 11th annual Spring Busker Festival on Saturday, March 4 and Sunday, March 5.

Nine acts are scheduled to perform and the public is invited to witness their talents and vote for their favorite as the buskers compete for the People’s Choice Award.

A busker is a street entertainer who performs in a public area for tips.

The Seaport Village Busker Festival is free to the public and performances will be held during regular hours this weekend for visitors of all ages. The performers are being drawn from around the country for this event and, as usual, the buskers will be accepting gratuities.

In addition, the performers will let loose at night throughout the village from 7 to 10 p.m. on March 4 for Buskers After Dark. This show is recommended for visitors over age 18 and will include fire jugglers, comedians, acrobats, a DJ, and food and drink specials.

A fire eater performs at the Busker Festival. (Courtesy of i.d.e.a. and Seaport Village)

Megan Madrigal, Seaport Village marketing director, has witnessed all of the previous Busker Festivals, and she recalls a few acts from the past that really stood out.

“We had an escape artist,” she said. “We brought in a big boom and he went on top and hung upside down in a straight jacket and he had to get himself out of it. That was very interesting to me.”

Madrigal said she was impressed by a contortionist who passed his entire body through the hole of a toilet seat, unhinging his shoulders to get through.

She also said she enjoyed watching sword swallower Murrugun the Mystic, who still frequents the waterfront park to perform throughout the year, although he won’t attend the festival this time.

“He’s one of the few sword swallowers in the world. I think a lot of people think it’s common, and it’s really not. People who can actually swallow swords are few and far between,” Madrigal said. “During Buskers After Dark, he’d let people staple tips to him, which is interesting.”

A busker rides three unicycles. (Courtesy of i.d.e.a. and Seaport Village)

With so many seemingly dangerous acts at the Busker Festival such as fire eaters, sword swallowers, contortionists, acrobats and escape artists hanging upside down, it seems accidents are bound to have happened over the event’s 10-year span.

“Luckily, we haven’t had anything major go wrong. These people are extremely talented. What they do is not easy … They travel the world doing their specific act and they’ve had a lot of practice,” Madrigal said. “I will say that people should not try this at home. They make it look easy, but it’s not.”

This year, Madrigal is especially excited about the many female buskers. “Surprisingly, it’s kind of hard to find the female acts,” she said.

Madrigal said Hillia Hula puts on an amazing show with hula hoops, including using a flaming hoop, which is quite colorful at night. Madrigal also mentioned Sara Kunz. “She’s a Hawaiian native and she’s got a really cool show and it ends with a big coconut palm tree in the middle, which is kind of intriguing,” she said.

“I’m also really interested in the dance-acrobatic groups,” Madrigal said. “This year we have The Strength Project. It’s a group of guys and they jump over people and they dance and it’s just really energetic and entertaining and always seems to be a crowd favorite.”

Madrigal is also looking forward to the performance of Skip Banks, “The Balloon Man.”

“It’s really interesting. He blows up this gigantic balloon and he gets inside of it and it’s hysterical,” she said. “He pokes in and out. He runs around and does all these things. People love that show.”

Here is a look at this weekend’s competing acts:

Alex Clark is a comedian who punctuates his act with jaw-dropping tricks.

Circus Mafia, a travelling circus performance and production company, performs circus acts, contortion and hula hoop tricks.

Fantastic Patrick puts on a comedy show with incredible tricks for all ages.

Extreme Rahim is the king of clean comedy with uplifting and encouraging comedy accented by live magic.

Sam Malcolm combines stand-up comedy and world-class juggling skills with a grand finale involving knives and flaming torches.

Hillia Hula captivates audiences with super fast hula hooping and a giant rainbow slinky made of 50 hoops.

Skip Banks, “The Balloon Man,” delivers laughs and awe as he puts himself inside a giant balloon.

Sara Kunz brings the Hawaiian vibe to audiences as she combines acrobatics, contortion, hula hoops and clown humor into one solo show.

The Strength Project puts on a show with acrobatic stunts, tumbling, break dancing, comedy and motivational speaking.

Non-competing buskers will also perform during the festival. These include Mitchell Walker, a didgeridoo player; Rabindra Sarkar, a Reiki master who builds towers by balancing and stacking rocks; and Eddy the Silver Statue, a performer who stands as still as a statue until someone gives him a tip.

Other events are scheduled in conjunction with the Busker Festival in The Headquarters open-air center. Eclectic DJ Mason Dyer will spin his high energy sets March 4 from noon to 4 p.m. Manny Cepeda and his salsa quartet will play March 5 from noon to 4 p.m.

Kelsey Montague will create a live mural in the center courtyard of The Headquarters. Montague’s murals invite people to interact with her art, like standing in the middle of large painted butterfly wings, for example.

For more information, visit seaportvillage.com.

—John Gregory can be reached at john@sdcnn.com.

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