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The ups and downs of competition


A yo-yo contest will be held at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 16.

A yo-yo contest will be held at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 16.

In life there are ups and downs. A lucky few will travel around the world, perhaps see the Eiffel Tower, while others will simply go around the corner as they walk the dog. The same goes with sports. Some will make it to the professional level while others are destined to watch from the stands. The difference on Aug. 16 at the Iowa State Fair is that anyone can make the jump from the stands to the stage, you simply have to sign up.

If you were caught sleeping, the name of the game is yo-yo, and everyone is invited to break away from his or her normal routine to give it their best toss.

“Last year we saw the biggest crowd ever for the yo-yo contest, and I’m hoping to see even more in 2014,” said event coordinator Randy Brown. “After last year’s event, (Bob Dorr of “The Blue Band,” a leading fair attraction for nearly 30 years now,) approached me on stage with a broad smile and said, ‘Man, that was quite a show. Those guys were great; incredibly entertaining.’ ”

The yo-yo has been around for a very long time. Archeologists found a Greek vase painting dating back from 500 B.C. depicting a boy with a yo-yo. Legend has it Napoleon distributed yo-yos among his troops to help calm nerves and put his troops at ease between battles.

The moniker “yo-yo” is actually relatively new given its long history. It was referred to as “bandalore” or “return top” in the U.S. until the 1920s. It wouldn’t be long after (1932) that the first World Yo-Yo Contest was held in London, England. However, it wouldn’t be until 1992 that the contest would become annual.

“Even though the yo-yo is still considered a toy by most, mastering the yo-yo is certainly not child’s play,” Brown said. “It requires a great deal of coordination, dexterity and skill to become adroit with a contemporary yo-yo. And, of course, practice. Lots and lots of practice!”

Being the finely tuned and meticulously engineered instruments they are, today’s yo-yo can prove to be a bit more expensive than one might expect to pay. The throws (yo-yos) used by today’s competitors are almost certain to have cost more than $50, with a price tag of $150 to $200 being not at all unusual.

The three judges for this contest certainly have an expertise in yo-yo skills and contests. Bryce Benton is the coordinator for the annual Iowa State’s Yo-Yo Competition (happening in October this year); Adam Brewster, a Des Moines resident, is a professional yo-yoer with the Canadian manufacturer Caribou Lodge Yo-Yo Works; and Rashad Nagi is a face familiar to all in the central Iowa yo-yoing community.

“It is these men who raise the Iowa State Fair Yo-Yo competition to a level of high caliber and integrity,” said Brown. “Those who take home ribbons or trophies can be assured their performance was deemed best through adjudication of highly proficient appraisals.

“Whether they be a contest participant or spectator in the audience, it is our hope they will all walk away thinking, ‘Man, that was a lot of fun. What a great show!’ And just maybe there will be some who will be enticed to return to a lost joy of their youth and once again pick up a yo-yo.” CV  

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Saturday, Aug. 16 at 4 p.m.
Registration: 2:30 p.m.
Fairview Stage sponsored by Coors Light with media sponsor KCCI 8 News

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