Petaluman Shares with Community
For John Crowley, the founder of Petaluma’s beloved Aqus Café, juggling has become a family affair. The chief organizer of the “Aqus Petaluma Juggle-In” often practices juggling with his sons and his soon-to-be wife, and plans to share the art with the larger community at the March 26 event.
Crowley, 53, originally picked up juggling when he and his mentee, 11-year-old Bobby Blalock, were searching for entertaining things to do and create together. In the past several months, Crowley has grown increasingly passionate about the activity after learning about the associated mental benefits. A 2009 study by Oxford University found that juggling can enhance connections in the brain, while a 2004 study published in the journal “Nature” says the activity has the potential to enhance brainpower.
“It inspired me to get everyone on the planet to juggle because it has so many beneficial effects,” Crowley said. “They change your mind, change your way of thinking and help focus the mind.”
Crowley, an Irish native, said he opened Aqus Café when he came to Petaluma to serve as a community hub where people can come together and engage with each other through different activities and events. He said the Juggle-In, which will be held from 1-3 p.m. at the Foundry Wharf Green behind the cafe at 189 H St., will serve as another way to unite the community.
“That is what this juggling project is about – having people come together and have fun,” Crowley said, adding that he wanted to be able to teach something that’s valuable.
In addition to facilitating the gathering and teaching the tricks of the trade, Crowley and Blalock will also share Crowley’s ingenious hack to design perfectly weighted juggling balls with the help of between 20 and 30 volunteers. Attendees can head to the “Beans, Balls and Balloons” booth run by Blalock to create their own by filling tennis balls to the brim with pinto beans and covering the balls with colorful balloons.
“The juggling balls are fun to make,” Blalock said.
Crowley and Blalock met through the Mentor Me program in Petaluma nine months ago, and the pair have already undertaken challenges such as creating and selling an air conditioning unit and taking a computer programming class. Blalock, a sixth grade Grant Elementary School student who dreams of being a computer programmer or video game designer one day, said he appreciates Crowley’s friendliness. He said he’s also looking forward to learning the unicycle wants to learn how to juggle while riding it.
Crowley, who enjoys mentoring young people, said that because youth are frequently absorbed in iPads, video games and other technology, he has found that juggling is a great way for kids to do something else with their hands and minds, while teaching hand-eye coordination and offering a very visceral experience.
“Juggling should be part of the core curriculum because it has so many great effects,” Crowley said, adding that Live Oak Charter School in Petaluma already has a program to teach kids to juggle and ride unicycles.
Beyond inspiring his mentee, Crowley has bigger plans to get “everyone on the planet to juggle.” His goal is to have a larger event this summer where he’ll try to break the world record of having 100 people juggle together, with two concentric circles of 50 people each with approximately 600-800 balls in the air.