Sitting on a toy store shelf, a yo-yo is nothing but wood and string. In the hands of Julius, the yo-yo guy, that simple toy comes alive, making it a bit harder to describe, but a whole lot of fun to watch.
The public — all ages — can see Julius and the world of yo-yos in action at a fascinating, fun, free yo-yo demonstration and workshop at the Homer Public Library from 1-3 p.m. Saturday. His demonstration includes a bit of music and choreography, some freestyling moves and audience participation. Those who have their own yo-yos are invited to bring them along.
“I like to get people sharing, having fun. It’s something that people can get up and try. They don’t necessarily have to be on the level I am, but that’s part of the magic, the fun of the whole thing,” Julius — like musician Jewel, rapper Eminem and talk show host Oprah, he uses first name only — told the Homer News.
The other main ingredient of the show?
“Silliness is really an essential part of what I do,” said Julius. “I hope people can stop being so self-conscious and missing out on a lot of stuff. Identify who you are and have fun with that. Be ridiculous. Don’t be afraid to try new stuff.”
How does someone rise to his level of yo-yo stardom and travel the world, encouraging others to give yoyos a try?
“It’s not like there’s a yo-yo guy career day,” said Julius, laughing. “I was going to go to music college. That’s what I thought my future was.”
That all changed when a yoyo distributor saw Julius showing off his talent.
“He asked if I wanted to travel around the world, play with toys and be paid,” said Julius, who makes his home in Arizona, and joined forces with Playmaxx, a major yo-yo manufacturer. “I’ve done my show in about 20 different countries all over the world. We’re part of major marketing campaigns, have been seen on MTV and just about every news program you can imagine. Who’d have thunk it? There are still days I wake up and go, ‘I’m the yo-yo guy? How’d that happen?’”
In 2002, Julius started his own company, which has allowed him to expand his outreach.
“It’s afforded me the opportunity to say yes for a lot of shows where, if you’re working for manufacturers, you’d have to say no. I do a lot of hospitals. When (Hurricane) Katrina hit, I worked with kids who were displaced. Last week I was at a children’s home,” said Julius. “I like donating my time.”
His travels have taken Julius to all but four of the United States. Make that three now that he’s visiting Alaska.
“Johna (Beech), director of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, put out a call that she had a high school friend, Julius, the yo-yo aficionado. She was bringing him up to do workshops on the Kenai,” said Claudia Haines, youth services coordinator of the Homer Public Library.
The Boys and Girls Clubs in Kasilof, Seward, Nikiski, Kenai and Soldotna signed on to have Julius perform. With the Homer Boys and Girls Club closed for the summer, Haines said the library “was a great place to host it.”
“I’m telling families that the demonstration is suitable for anybody,” said Haines.
“The hands-on demonstration is probably more applicable for older kids, but younger ones and adults are welcome.”
Ask Julius what ages are attracted to his type of fun and he used to say 6 to 106 years of age. He’s had to revise that, however.
“I had a gentleman come to a yoyo class and I then went to his 111th birthd-ay party and he was walking around like it was nothing,” said Julius.
His experience with the simple toy not only makes Julius an expert in using a yo-yo, but also designing them.
He travels with an assortment available for purchase, everything from the $8 ProYo III to the $40 Sparkly ProYo II, also available on his website.
“He’ll have some there and we’ll have some there for kids to use in the workshop,” said Haines. “And if you have one, bring it.”
Using himself as an example, Julius had a message for others.
“If you do anything well enough, you’ll find a way to make a living at it. You just need to focus, pay attention and look for where there’s a need,” he said.
For more information about Julius and a video of him in action, visit www.allyoyo.com
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.