Due to the unique nature and popularity of the Houdini Days Magic Festival, I have been asked numerous times about how it began.
The genesis of the Houdini Days Magic Festival...
While attending a magic convention, I noticed that the dealer rooms opened immediately following the public shows. The problem was that the excited spectators that had just had a great experience in the magic shows were not allowed to enter the dealer rooms unless they were a registered member of the convention. The rationale was to not expose any secrets to the general public. At that point I realized that there could be a "general public" component to a convention, besides the public shows.
I floated the idea to a few key people and they all thought it was a great idea. I immediately contacted the magic club that hosted the convention in the area and offered to coordinate the "general public" side of the convention. The club wasn't interested in changing the format of their convention, so the Houdini Days Magic Festival was born.
In six months, the first Festival was organized. Jennifer Allyn of Appleton Downtown Inc and her staff were critical in making the Festival a reality. The Festival was to be held in downtown Appleton (Houdini Plaza), it was to be family-friendly (G-rated performances, no beer sales, etc), and it was to offer FREE performances. Sponsors and individual donations were raised to cover the costs. Being that the Festival is a non-profit event, numerous volunteers were enlisted.
It was important to bring in outstanding talent if our goal of "generating an appreciation for the magical arts in the general public" was to be achieved. The first Festival (2003) had the talent of Mark Wilson & Nani Darnell, Doc Eason, Sylvester the Jester, Stuart MacDonald, Goldfinger & Dove, David Seebach, Michael P. Lair, Michael Finney, Joshua Jay, Michael Ammar, Mark Bond, Rondini, Danny Magic, Glen Gerard, Jeff McMullen, Lou Lepore, Nate Nygren, Bruce Hetzler, Julie Sobanski, and The Comedy Magic of Mike & Chris. Our biggest mistake was underestimating the size of the crowd (approx 8,000 people) that experienced amazing magic throughout the day.
This year (September 2-5, 2004) the Houdini Days Magic Festival has built upon its extremely successful first year. With an expected 15,000 to 20,000 people attending, we have made plans to ensure great viewing of the performances. Thursday night activities were added (Magical Reception with close-up performances and Houdini's Greatest Escapes Recreated). "Magic's Greatest Hits starring Jeff McBride" and 11 lectures were added as well. With an entire year to organize this Festival, we were able to bring in another stellar line-up of talent and lecturers: Mark Wilson & Nani Darnell, Jeff McBride, Robert Baxt, Dean Gunnarson, Tom Burgoon, Bill Malone, Michael Finney, Michael Ammar, Joshua Jay, Doc Eason, Ice McDonald, Kevin King, Jon Stetson, David "Silly Billy" Kaye, Rondini, Franz Harary, Rex Sikes, Reed Sisters (Jessica, Shayna, Mandy), Glen Gerard, Danny Magic, Lou Lepore, Bruce Hetzler, Nate Nygren, and The Comedy Magic of Mike & Chris. This line-up offers some of the world's greatest stage, children's, close-up, and escape performances.
The 2005 Houdini Days Magic Festival is already being organized (August 31 to September 3, 2005). Some confirmed talent include Whit Hayden, Daryl, Bob Sheets, Trixie Bond, Dan Fleshman, Mark Cannon, Mitch Williams, David Ginn, Steve Taylor, Joanie Spina, Dana Daniels, Chris Linn, Dave Womach, Dan Harlan, Jeff Bibik, Glen Gerard, and David Seebach. Many more will be added soon!
To help the future of magic, we are forming magic clubs in the Boys & Girls Club and YMCA in Appleton. Year round programming is being
established with the Houdini Days Magic Festival as its centerpiece. This is just the beginning!
Magic is alive and well in Houdini's Hometown (Appleton, Wisconsin).
Houdini Days Organizer