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After weeks of nervous indecision, 14-year-old Donovan Hanley decided to sign up for Chico’s annual spring yo-yo contest.
“Just entering the contest, I feel like I’m achieving something,” he said.
The contest was organized by Bob Malowney, owner of Bird in Hand. His eclectic toy store in downtown Chico, is a place to play with cool gadgets, a place to buy memorable gifts for loved ones, and a place where you can let your inner child run wild.
The quirky little shop on Broadway is the home of the National Yo-yo Museum, as well as the world’s largest working wooden yo-yo.
But there’s more to Bird in Hand than just toys.
Some toys, such as yo-yos, are tools that inspire people to set and reach goals. The Chico Yo-yo Club, which is hosted weekly by Bird in Hand, is a place where young people with a common purpose spend time together, learn techniques and invent new tricks. It’s a place that encourages hands-on learning.
On April 18, more than a dozen children and teens participated in Bird in Hand’s third annual spring yo-yo contest in the Chico City Plaza.
“It’s a good contest because it has a lot of local flavor,” Malowney said. He also organizes the American National Yo-Yo Contest in the fall.
The kids and teens showed their yo-yo skills on stage for a panel of three judges. The experience helps prepare them for the national competition, as well as giving them a goal to work toward.
“Everyone knows us as the kids who yo-yo,” Donovan said while waiting for his turn to hit the stage.
Donovan and his friend, Zac Rubino, 15, of Chico, practiced their yo-yo tricks for at least two hours a day, sometimes at the Thursday Night Market, in the weeks leading up to the contest.
Donovan explained that yo-yo tricks have developed over the years and there’s more to them than most people think. Learning and inventing new tricks is a constant challenge. “It’s obscure, not a lot of people know about it,” he said.
Entering the yo-yo contest wasn’t something the boys took lightly.
“One you learn a trick or win a contest, it feels like you achieved something,” Zac said.
One of the contest’s judges, Augie Fash, 21, has been teaching kids how to yo-yo for the past four to five years. He learned how to yo-yo 11 years ago and enjoys sharing his hobby with others.
Besides being a good role model for local youth, Fash said he likes seeing the kids succeed. “My favorite part is when they teach me a trick, and I can’t do it.”
Fash said about 20 to 40 people, ages 6 to 28, practice their yo-yo skills during the Chico Yo-Yo Club’s free lessons from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays at Bird in Hand. Anyone interested in learning how to yo-yo is welcome to attend.
Journalist Lauren Brooks lives in Chico. She is the editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record’s weekly entertainment guide, The Buzz. She is a CSU, Chico alumna who graduated with a B.A. in journalism in spring 2006. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.