A yo-yo Fountain of Youth

Eric Todd, Science & Technology Program Specialist

Earlier this month I turned 27 years old. The main gift I received from my mom was a rice pack. If you’re unfamiliar, and most are, this is a cloth bag filled with rice that can be heated in the microwave or chilled in the freezer for use in the relief of bodily aches and pains. Now, I’m certainly not willing to admit that I’m getting old, but I definitely felt younger when I was tearing open birthday packages filled with action figures or sports equipment than when receiving a bag designed to erase the daily toll life takes on me.

If I work hard enough, the 2012 contest is within reach.

The point is, I loved being a kid, and I often feel that the simple joys of my youth have now passed me by. Wow, that sounded incredibly depressing. But the truth is, I’ve recently been inspired to rediscover the fun of my personal yesteryear. With the rice pack serving as the latest reminder that my life and hobbies are not quite as youthful and fun as they once were, I have embraced the museum’s preparation for the 2011 Indiana State Yo-yo Contest as a miniature fountain of youth.

I’ve always enjoyed playing with a yo-yo. Now, I hate to brag, but I happen to think I’m pretty good too. I mean, you hand me a yo-yo, I can keep that baby humming for quite some time. Sure, it’s not easy, and as I’ve been practicing at my desk I’ve found that yo-yoing is a challenge that has its ups and downs — I felt obligated to work that in — but I stood confidently by my yo-yo skills. Until I saw this video. This video rattled my self-image and shattered the very core of what I thought I knew about yo-yoing. And I loved it.

That video was my first introduction to what I would be seeing at the yo-yo contest. With the upbeat music and fast-paced tricks, it never dawned on me that something with such a modern feel could have such a long history. With yo-yo contests dating back more than 80 years and the Indiana contest being one of the longest running in the United States, I can’t help but feel that I’ll be witnessing history on April 29 and 30 at the 2011 Contest. With competitors coming from all over the country, I feel spoiled to think that my first yo-yo experience will feature the best of the best. Plus, with vendors on hand and the competitors accessible with tips, I’m selfishly hoping to exploit their expertise to add a trick or two — I’d be happy with one — to my own repertoire.

I cannot confirm the legitimacy of this MVP award, but maybe I should have stuck with baseball.

As a closet full of toys and games in my bedroom back home can attest (to my parents, if you’re reading this: do not throw anything away), I attempted many things in my day, but mastered few. And while I don’t regret casting aside my Pog collection and rarely lament my failure to collect every WWF wrestling figure (full disclosure, I’d still like to have those), watching these yo-yoers has caused me to wonder what could have been. Maybe it’s not too late for me to be the next great Erector Set architect, but for now, I’m looking forward to living vicariously through the competitors at the 2011 Indiana State Yo-yo Contest.

The Indiana State Museum is hosting the 2011 Indiana State Yo-yo Contest on April 29 and 30.

Did you just say “Skin the Gerbil”?

Author Takeshi Kamisato is  the organizer of the Indiana State Yo-Yo Contest and a Duncan Yo-Yo Professional

Shoot the moon, sword and shield, split the atom, milk the cow, skin the gerbil … to most people these phrases are random and very strange, but they are an essential part of the modern day yo-yo player’s vocabulary. They are all names of standard tricks in today’s crazy world of new school yo-yoing.

The first yo-yo boom started in Chicago back in the early 1930s when Donald F. Duncan, founder of Duncan Yo-Yos, teamed up with newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. They promoted and ran yo-yo contests throughout the city. They took this campaign nationwide and professional demonstrators were scattered across the country. And just like that, America’s love for the yo-yo was born.

In the mid-1990s, the popularity of the ball-bearing yo-yo skyrocketed and pushed yo-yo play to new levels. In 1999, the largest worldwide yo-yo boom in history was in full swing. Advanced yo-yo technology coupled with kids who have no preconceived notions on what a yo-yo could not do created the perfect environment for creativity and trick innovation grew exponentially.

Today, there are five major styles in yo-yoing and more tricks than any human could ever learn. If it has been a while since you have seen someone playing with a yo-yo, then you owe it to yourself to come on down to the 2011 Indiana State Yo-Yo Contest at the Indiana State Museum on April 29 and 30. For detailed information, please visit www.indianastates.newschool101.com.

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