There’s a new camp in town, and one that Gearhart Elementary School physical education teacher Bob Evans hopes to turn into an annual summer opportunity for community children.
In mid-July, Evans — frequently referred to as Coach Bob by his younger campers — brought his numerous years of experience teaching and performing juggling all over the world to Seaside for the first North Coast Juggling Camp.
The camp, which took place at the Mary Blake Playhouse, included two sessions: The first from July 8 to 12 and the second from July 15 to 19, with classes were held from 8 to 10 a.m. each day.
Although it was recommended for campers to attend both sessions, simply “because it takes awhile to learn these things,” Evans said, he only had one camper the first week, Brandon Spalding. By the second session, however, eight other campers joined in.
If the camp eventually evolves into Evans’ vision — a full-scale and potentially overnight camp with opportunities for kids to learn unicycling, acrobatics and a whole host of circus-type skills — “it’s kind of a funny origin” to have started with a single kid, he said.
Balls, balance and beyond
A group of nine kids gathered in Seaside for the first annual North Coast Juggling/Circus Camp. Most of these kids had little or no juggling e…
Evans, who started teaching at Gearhart Elementary in fall 2018, delved into juggling near the end of college. Both Bob and his now-wife Trish Evans were student-athletes at Michigan Tech University, her participating in cross country and skiing and him in basketball.
They were accustomed to being active and training several hours per day, so when their collegiate sports careers concluded, they sought a new way to satisfy their energy and fill their time. The athletic couple tried an array of new hobbies, including ballroom dancing, hula-hooping, rock climbing and water polo. Juggling, unicycling and acrobatics were the activities that stuck.
In the following years, Bob and Trish Evans took their act on the road, touring 47 states over nine months in 2011; competed on the 11th season of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” in 2016; and spent several years in South Korea and Thailand teaching English and continuing to perform.
Part of the couple’s vision continues to be passing along their knowledge and skills to the next generation. Although juggling is occasionally associated with circuses and clowns, Bob Evans equated the activity to learning an instrument or practicing martial arts.
“I think of juggling in the same way,” he said. “The benefits are very similar, where it’s working your body and your brain. It teaches discipline and daily practice.”
What lies ahead?
Liliana Miller, 12, who was at the camp with her brothers Dutch and Greyson, first became interested in juggling after watching one of Evans’ YouTube videos.
“I thought it would be cool to know how to multi-task on a unicycle,” said Miller, who began learning how to unicycle several months ago. Additionally, she said, “juggling helps with all the sports I do,” in terms of fine-tuning mental focus and hand-eye coordination.
She was excited to see her skills progress noticeably, even after just a couple days at camp. In addition to being able to juggle on a unicycle, Miller also has her eye on learning how to juggle with a variety of different items at one time.
Daniel Albright, 14, a soon-to-be freshman at Astoria High School, also has hopes of eventually juggling with knives and torches. He appreciates the never-ending challenge presented by juggling. Once a skill is mastered, there is always a new one to learn, he said.
During the camp, Albright enjoyed trying different combinations with a variety of equipment, including bean bags, hacky sacks and clubs.
“I like the patterns and having the sense that I can do something with three balls when I’m bored,” he said.
During the camp, Evans gave the children daily opportunities to demonstrate their developing skills. Another end goal was putting together a YouTube video to exhibit the campers’ progression. See the video at https://youtu.be/tlAIOtZepp0.
Evans plans to oversee a juggling club at Gearhart Elementary during the upcoming school year and pursue other future opportunities for young people to learn and perform not only juggling, but also a variety of other skills.