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At the Colon Magic Festival: This is Your Brain on Magic

August 6, 2012 at 1:46 PM | by | ()

Here at Jaunted, we spend considerable time and (virtual) ink drooling over weird festivals. So, this summer, we've decided to visit a few. Today and tomorrow Lara Zielin will report back from the Colon Magic Festival in Colon, Michigan.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I was enthralled with that stupid rope. It was the Saturday night performance during the 75th annual Magic Get-Together in Colon, Michigan, and Mac King was on the stage. He was wearing a dumpy plaid suit (hello, cliché much?) holding nothing but a single rope. And here I was, leaned forward in rapt attention as he cut the rope, folded the rope, hacked at it time and time again and, voila! It was always the same piece of rope, the same length.

The applause at the Colon high school gym (the home of the fighting magi, where the motto is “learning is magic”) was deafening when he was done. Every seat in the house was packed, and everyone was downright delighted. Even the teenagers sitting in front of me—some of them from Chicago, a big city where disaffected kids should know better.

The thing is, the magic festival gets under your skin—or, your top hat, however you choose to look at it. That’s largely because the Get-Together is a convention hosted by Abbott’s Magic Company, where magicians from all around the world attend a multi-day gathering each year. They share tricks and insider information, but not just on stage. These guys hang around town. They go to the American Legion. They dine at Five Star Pizza, a local eatery. They entertain everyone in an informal, friendly way that makes the magic much more engaging—not to mention accessible—than in, say, Las Vegas.

“There’s nothing else like it,” says magician Paul Emmick, who by day is a meteorologist for WSBT-TV in South Bend, Indiana. “You don’t see a family-run company [Abbott’s] in a small town that brings people in like this. It’s for the community as much as the magicians.”

Meaning there are Vegas-level acts, like Mac King, in a high school venue, something Emmick says is part of the fun. “There are national acts that are happy to come down to that level. For the rest of us, it’s a comfortable venue.”

There is an 8:00 P.M. show every evening for the duration of the Get-Together. Most festival-goers hit Friday and Saturday nights. Tickets are $20.00 for each show, though for attendees who want to take in more than just the weekend, there is package pricing available at abbottmagic.com.

While professionally minded magicians can use the festival to attend lectures and purchase magical wares at a discount, there’s plenty to do for the average visitor. There is a craft fair, a pizza-eating contest, and this year was the first cardboard boat race. Buskers, or street performers, entertain passers-by through the weekend.

There is also a talent contest for budding magicians. The youngest entrant this year was nine-year-old Anthony Stockton, whose on-stage assistant is his mom. When asked if he wanted to be a magician when he grew up, he quite nearly rolled his eyes. “I am a magician,” he replied.

Brent Frank from Woodridge, Illinois has a cottage on nearby Palmer Lake, and has been coming to the festival for thirteen years. “In Vegas, you pay to a lot of money to see one act that’s not that good,” he says. “Here, you pay $20.00 and you see a bunch of great acts.”

Winner of the cardboard boat race

[Photos: Lara Zielin]

Archived Comments:

Love the Magic Festival

Thanks for writing about the magic festival. Great story. I've been going for years, and I can't wait until my daughter is a couple of years older so she can start enjoying the tradition as well.

Thank You For A Great Article

Great article, thank you very much.