The "busiest magician in the Midwest" came to Kendall Young Library Monday to host a magic show.
Rick Eugene, a Davenport native, performed his family-oriented magic show to a packed house, and had magic tricks and illusions suited for both children and parents. Performing an array of tricks, from cards to rope tricks and optical illusions, Eugene said that children could find out how to do his tricks by reading books at the Kendall Young Library.
Eugene became interested in magic tricks as a child. It was later in a psychology class where he saw a magic show that blew him away. It rekindled his interest in magic. However, he said he was pointed in the wrong direction for where to start learning.
Rick Eugene performed to a packed meeting room at Kendall Young Library on Monday evening. He first performed an illusion where he placed a rotating wheel in front of his face, making his head appear to shrink after removing the wheel.
"The magician directed me to a magic shop, and it turns out he was a secret seller for the shop," Eugene said. "There's not a magic shop around here, but there are a lot of books and resources that someone can use right here at the library."
He continued magic as a hobby until a performance for a group of friends changed his perspective. After a party, the host asked him how much money he wanted for his performance.
"I told her it was just a hobby, but she told me that everyone was talking about me and that she really wanted to pay me. That made me think," Eugene said.
From there, Eugene began touring as a professional magician. He has hosted a show at Kendall Young Library for about eight years now. He has performed in 18 states, but mostly performs in Iowa and Illinois. He will return to his home this week after performing seven shows in just two days. He's known as the busiest magician in the Midwest by a group of magicians he works with back in Davenport, who joke that Eugene performs more shows than the rest of them combined.
While Eugene first found himself practicing for several hours a day on various tricks, he said his busy schedule keeps him sharp. He still spends time learning new tricks, but he said the most challenging aspect of his work is the performance itself.
His first trick, where he took a motorized spinning wheel with a spiral on it, causes an optical illusion. Eugene will put the spinning wheel in front of his face for a few moments, asking the audience to focus on the center of the wheel. When he moves the wheel from his face, his head appears larger than normal and appears to shrink over several seconds. The optical illusion can also be reversed, his head appearing to grow, if he reverses the rotation of the wheel.
That trick, Eugene said, is how he can gauge an audience. It's almost a guaranteed laugh when he pulls that wheel away. Still, he's had tough crowds. Attendees at the Kendall Young Library, however, were laughing along with him.
Kendall Young Library will host a program today at 5 p.m. where teens will have the opportunity to create a wind-triggered lantern.
Bonnie Korslund, teen librarian at Kendall Young Library, said the idea for the project came from the Google Maker Camp. The camp is an online course which offers guidelines for do-it-yourself projects. A step up from simple crafts, other maker projects include a pedal-powered phone charger, a pocket-sized power supply, a two-liter soda bottle boat and much more.
The wind-triggered lantern is built by attaching a LED light to a battery, making a flickering mechanism with a spring, a string and a feather. The feather is attached so when it moves in the wind, it pulls on the string, which closes the circuit and causes the light to blink.
Such maker projects are part of a larger culture which advocates teaching engineering, wood and metal working, working with electronics and other do-it-yourself areas of interest. Korslund said projects like this encourage teens to learn skills and apply them in practical ways.
Libraries across the country are embracing these maker projects. Korslund said there are libraries that not only allow rental of books and films but also tools that can be used for do-it-yourself projects. While Kendall Young Library has no plans to begin such a program in Webster City, she said that it would be a possibility with funding and if a need was identified.
The program will be presented by Community and Family Resources in Webster City. Korslund said the group has been very helpful in setting up this maker project program and has also contributed to other projects that the library has hosted on teen tuesday activities. The project will be hosted in the Kendall Young Library meeting room, and is for children in grades six through 12.