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Denver street juggling a lifestyle, a way to make a living

DENVER (AP) — For roommates Andrew, Cam and David, life is a circus.

Really difficult. Everyone makes a living juggling the streets of Denver. You may have seen one of these on your daily commute to work, stepping out onto the crosswalk at red lights to entertain motorists and passers-by.

Andrew Young and Cam Resch perform a few times a week at the intersection of Quebec Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, while David Forrey keeps things up in the air on 1st Avenue and University Boulevard in Cherry Creek . They’ve made it a science: dashing in, performing a quick show, then darting from car to car to pick up whatever tips they can before returning safely to the sidewalk once the light turns green.

It’s a tricky game. If they are in traffic once the light turns green, they could be fined for soliciting contributions from moving vehicles. They must also be careful not to obstruct pedestrians’ rights of way on pedestrian crossings and also take care of their own safety.

None of them have had any problems with the police so far, they say.

Young, Resch and Forrey typically juggle about four days a week, two to three hours at a time, earning enough tips to pay rent, bills and buy food. In a typical week, they can each make around $400 in cash and Venmo payments.

And they’re not the only jugglers on the streets of Denver. There is one at South Sante Fe Drive and West Alameda Avenue and another at East Alameda and Colorado Boulevard. Weekly “flow arts” meetings are held on Sundays at Cheesman Park and can attract 10 to 80 jugglers.

It’s not a lifestyle that suits everyone, but the three jugglers enjoy it.

After a day of juggling, they return home to a three-bedroom townhouse in RiNo. They also have a fourth roommate who juggles, but Forrey said that roommate works a “real job” as a home improvement contractor.

Their other roommates, a pit bull named Ruger and a gray house cat named Diablo, are unfortunately unable to juggle. (Now that would be something to do at a crosswalk, huh?)

“When you live with other circus people, I can have fun with them on something that I do,” Forrey said of the arrangement. “It’s just nice to have it all in one place.”

On the crosswalk, the work is dirty and rowdies from cars and sidewalks are commonplace. Forrey was shouted at “Get a real job!” forward, but he won’t let it get to her. After all, he deliberately left his “real job” in the cannabis industry for this lifetime.

After playing for hours in the hot summer sun, the three often come home dirty, sweaty and exhausted. And it’s not always worth it.

“I definitely worked three hours before and made less than $40,” Forrey said.

Forrey, 28, switched to full-time juggling just under a year ago. Resch, 25, was fired twice during the pandemic before deciding to return to juggling full-time. Young, 33, started juggling in Denver immediately after moving from Seattle in January. Thanks to their mutual passion and a few juggling encounters at the park, they decided to live together.

And so far, while he may struggle to make ends meet, the ability to work for himself ultimately wins out, Forrey said. For Young, it’s the flexibility of performing on your own schedule that makes juggling appealing.

For Resch, who is non-binary and uses the pronouns they/them, it is the perfect form of self-expression, luminous and visible to all.

“Not only is it something that has allowed me to get in touch with my creativity and my own personal artistic expression, but it is also a medium in which I am able to display a piece of myself, a piece of soul, for others to enjoy,” they said.

When Resch isn’t playing, it’s common to find them in the yard, practicing new tricks for up to six hours a day.

“I recognize that I could work part-time and live more comfortably, but for me, sacrificing time that I could devote to my art is not worth it in the current circumstances,” they said.

And on top of that, the trio get away with it, paying about $2,100 in rent a month, split among the four housemates.

Inside the apartment, the walls are lined with juggling clubs and other paraphernalia, like poi (a ball attached to a short string) and contact sticks for spinning, all hanging from racks handmade wood. A ripped sectional sofa in the living room is decorated with mismatched blankets and piles of Squishmallows (stuffed animal pillows too collectible). An empty room in the unfinished basement is reserved for indoor practice.

Their only complaint? The ceilings in the apartment are not high enough.

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