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Jest Fest!, a free, fun, family-friendly event produced by the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department returns this April with a great lineup of international stars. In its inaugural season last year, thousands of captive audience members, innocent bystanders, gawkers and curious on-lookers were stricken with contagious, uncontrollable laughter caught from the antics of an impressive assembly of some of the world’s finest cirque and comedy/variety acts.
This year’s stellar lineup of thrilling daredevils and laughable buffoons will “strut and fret their time upon the stage” at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza each Saturday night in April at 6 p.m., highlighting the virtues of hilarity and derring-do. Each Saturday night will feature entirely different world class entertainers so, to enjoy all that Jest Fest! has to offer, patrons should plan on attending all four evenings. Some of the astounding entertainers traveling to Gainesville to perform include:
• The amazing Cirikli Stilt Bird puppets of Epcot Center fame will interact with the audience and perform an enthralling show onstage.
• The cast of the Hippodrome Theater’s upcoming production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” will make an appearance.
• The Flying Wallendas, perhaps the world’s most famous circus family, will thrill the audience with circus clowning, juggling, acrobatics and breathtaking feats on the high-wire over 20-feet in the air!
• Audiences will be greeted by Barbara and Ina with their living and breathing human statue exhibition.
• Ed Thomas and Hugo will be featured onstage with a comedy and ventriloquist act straight out of the 1950s. You might be left wondering just which one of the two is really the dummy.
• The headliner act is magician and sword-swallower Johnny Fox. Fox has wowed audiences around the world and made numerous television appearances, including “The Merv Griffin Show,” “Comic Strip Live,” “Jonathan Winters’ Magic and Comedy Showtime Special,” Barbara Walters’ “The View” and several appearances on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
• The fun continues with Marc Dobson’s walking one-man-band greeting the audience as they arrive with a drum on his back and guitar in his hands while playing and singing an excellent repertoire of popular tunes.
• Following onstage is comedy juggler extraordinaire Dan Raspyni. Raspyni has worked all over the world as a solo performer and as one-half of the world famous Raspyni Brothers comedy juggling team. Raspyni made appearances on “The Tonight Show,” “Jerry Lewis Telethon,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “TNN Prime Time Country,” “Jonathan Winters’ Magic and Comedy Showtime Special,” “Disney New Vaudevillians Special,” “Comic Strip Live” and “Circus of the Stars.”
• To top off the evening, star of Broadway and film Avner the Eccentric, will delight audiences with his silent comedy and physical humor. Avner is probably best known for his endearing portrayal of the Jewel, the scene-stealing holy man, in “The Jewel of the Nile,” co-starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. He was also featured in the film “Brenda Starr” and the television series “Webster” and “Mathnet.” Avner’s one-man show, “Avner the Eccentric,” was a hit of the 1984–1985 Broadway season. He co-starred in Lincoln Center’s production of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors,” and returned to Broadway in 1989 in a principal role in “Ghetto.” Avner’s new show, “Exceptions to Gravity,” defies the barriers of language and culture and has toured extensively all over the US and abroad. One of the world’s greatest clowns, Avner never says a word but the audience remains in a constant state of laughter from beginning to end.
• For the festival grand finale, the circus returns to downtown Gainesville with a performance by the Walten’s Acrobatic and Performing Dog Show. Seasoned circus arts professionals have performed around the world. Their show consists of balancing feats, juggling, comedy, magic and four adorable performing poodles.
• The evening will also feature a puppet and mask procession through the plaza featuring puppets from Santa Fe College Theatre, Rainbow Tiger Circus, Moxie Productions and the Thomas Center Theatre for Young Audiences.
• Jest Fest! will culminate with an electric stage performance by acrobat, comedian and hand-balancing artist Cory Tabino. Tabino is a multitalented circus performer with 21 years’ experience onstage working for more than 25 circus companies, including the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil.
This year, Jest Fest! is hosting some wonderful giveaways. The Hippodrome State Theatre has donated two tickets to their spring production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” Since April is April Fools’ month and since “The Tempest” features one of Shakespeare’s finest court jester fools, we are putting it all together and the two Hippodrome tickets will be given away to the person (or persons) who come in costume on our opening night of Jest Fest! as the best-dressed April fools!
Additionally new this year, Jest Fest! is holding a photography contest. The grand prize (tickets for two to Cirque du Soleil in Orlando) will be awarded Saturday, April 26 at the Jest Fest! grand finale. To be eligible to win the grand prize ($200 value), festival-goers must submit their favorite photo from each of the first three Jest Fest! Saturdays to the Jest Fest! Facebook page. You must be present at the finale to win. Can’t make all of the Jest Fest! dates? Don’t worry - there will also be prizes for best photo from each of the first three Jest Fest! Saturdays. Prizes include $50 gift certificates donated from The Lunchbox Café, Vellos and Harry’s, and are redeemable for dining at these fine downtown restaurants. For more information on these contests and Jest Fest!, please visit and like our Jest Fest! Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/jestfestgainesville or our website at http://gvlculturalaffairs.org/website/programs_events/jestfest/jest-fest-gainesville.html.
Welcome To Natural North Florida -- the original Florida tourism destination.
There are off-beat and old-fashioned towns to explore where you can still savor a slice of life from bygone days. This region is also home to the largest collection of natural springs in the world, amazing sunsets, wonderfully quiet recreational rivers and trails, and world-class flora and fauna. With no crowds and no palm trees, it'll alter your stereotypes of the state. As you wander along the tree-lined and scenic roads winding through the region, you'll forget that you are in the fourth largest state in the US.
It's a "come as you are" kind of place, where you'll find people very down home yet very sophisticated, natural and nice, all at once.