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Juggling knives and high-fives

Award-winning circus performer entertains families at North Liberty library
Kids look on as juggler and acrobat Laura Ernst balances a knife on her head on Thursday, June 14, at Jones Gym in the North Liberty Community Center. The event was part of the North Liberty Community Library’s Summer Reading program. (photo by Cale Stelken)

NORTH LIBERTY– Kids of North Liberty can now include knife juggling and a human hamster ball among the performance arts they’ve witnessed at their community library.
On the evening of Thursday, June 14, award-winning juggler and acrobat Laura Ernst entertained an audience of 212 people as part of the North Liberty Community Library’s Summer Reading program. The event took place at the Jones Gym in the North Liberty Community Center.
A Des Moines resident, Ernst won first place at the World Juggling Federation in 2008, ranking her as one of the best jugglers in the world. She then performed on Season 5 of America’s Got Talent in Chicago, a spectacle that led judge Howie Mandel to exclaim, “I love you! You are my soul mate.” Ernst also claims to be the only woman in the world to have successfully juggled flaming chainsaws.
With assistant Ken Logan on hand, Ernst started the June 14 show by crawling inside an inflated human hamster ball.
“In this show, you’re going to see things no one else in the world does. More importantly, you might find out... why,” she quipped.
Three brave young volunteers were selected out of the crowd to lay on the floor, side by side, as Ernst cracked jokes in her transparent sphere.
“Don’t worry, I’ve never fallen on the first two volunteers,” she assured the audience, before somersaulting over all three kids. She then rewarded their bravery with temporary tattoos.
Ernst proceeded with a large metal hula hoop act and performance by guest contortionist Callie Wicker, a young student from Ernst’s Iowa Circus Arts school in Des Moines.
While she wasn’t able to juggle her flaming chainsaws due to the indoor setting, Ernst brandished a set of large knives for her final act.
“One of these little piggies might be going to the market without me,” she said, noting her bare toes.
Ernst balanced a shimmery blade on her head as her “impersonation of a swordfish” and proceeded to grab more knives. As she prepared to juggle four at once, she told the audience, “This trick represents years... of dateless Friday nights.”
After the performance, Ernst promised “free high-fives for everyone,” autographed posters for kids and invited them to play with hula hoops and other circus equipment.