by Britt Chester

| @awfullybrittish

In a well-lit carpeted gymnasium housed in the massive complex that is the First Christian Church Ministries facility in Kernersville, six men and women, ages varied from early 30s up to mid-50s, raise their juggling clubs in unison signaling the start of a six-person passing pattern. Flipping clubs pass flawlessly for what seems like an uncountable pattern, but then one hits the floor. Then another. No matter, though, because it’s all about picking it back up and trying again.

“We love to teach,” said John Ritchey, an LGS Innovations engineer from Burlington, and one of Triad Juggling Club’s tenured members. “The neat thing about jugglers is that everybody always has something they are willing to teach.

A new person can come in and one of our good teachers can have them juggling in half an hour.” Ritchey started juggling when he was a kid (“I decided one day I wanted learn, so I opened a can of tennis balls and chased them all over the room for a month”) and, save for a brief hiatus following college, and after his wife bought him some juggling clubs, he has been at it at least once per week since. He even taught some of his coworkers how to juggle so he had people to pass clubs with during lunch breaks.

Ritchey and other members of the Triad Juggling Club were recently featured on Roy Ackland’s Fox8 special “Roy’s Folks” talking about the hobby. What was not expressed in that was just how physically exerting juggling can be, which was made apparent by the glistening brows and spotted shirts seen on everyone passing clubs in the gym.

Jesse Blair, a 33-year-old part-time mechanical engineer and music composer, is a testament to what physical exhaustion is when it comes to the sport.

“I like to exercise and juggle, and a lot of times I can’t work in my juggling time,” Blair said. “I was running a lot, and frustrated I couldn’t juggle. Now I go to a baseball field and I’ll juggle five balls while running.” Blair added that he runs for upwards of one and a half hours, sometimes, and that he gets exhausted by the end of the run.

“It’s a really good workout.” The club is searching for a new place to practice and meet on the weekends. Their current location at First Christian Church needs to make way for children’s summer programs, which pushes TJC out. But the gym has been the perfect fit for a long time given the height of the ceilings, the air conditioning in the summer and the heat in the winter – two amenities not offered in outdoor parks where TJC occasionally meets.

David Williams, one of the administrators who manages email blasts and the social media information for the club, spoke about a time when the club met at the Farmers Market off of Sandy Ridge Road, but said that because of inclement weather it wasn’t always conducive for outdoor juggling.

“This isn’t a very big gym, but the ceilings are tall and it’s such a perfect room,” Williams said about the current location. He has been searching for another venue ever since the club was notified of the schedule changes at the church.

Williams moved from California to Winston-Salem in 1999 with his wife and two sons. He was a fixture at California juggling clubs that were able to meet outside, but that changed when he decided to settle down in North Carolina with his family. Since then, he has remained employed at Valspar Corporation while adding torches, rings, sickles, and other items to his juggling resume.

Another member and Winston-Salem local is Jill Carson, a 33-year-old graphic designer employed by Wake Forest University. Carson has been juggling for almost 20 years, having taken weeklong trips to juggling camps, and attending club meetings locally.

Carson graduated from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, and upon finishing her portfolio at The Creative Circus, relocated back to Winston-Salem to seek employment. Juggling has been a constant, though, since she was 13.

“I have two older sisters and I was at that age where you want to do everything your older sister does so I had to learn how to juggle. She stopped at three balls, and I just bought books and kept learning,” she said.

Carson admitted she prefers juggling clubs with partners, but appreciates it all. !


Triad Juggling Club meets at 10 a.m – 12 p.m. at First Christian Church Ministries every Saturday until the end of May. First Christian Church is located at 1130 N. Main Street, Kernersville. As of June 1, the club is seeking a new location. Find Triad Juggling Club on Facebook if you have information regarding a new facility, or would like to hire Triad Juggling Club for an upcoming event.