IF YOU GO
What: Family Magic Night
When: 7 p.m. Saturday doors open; 7:30 p.m. show
Where: Chester Frost Park, 2318 Gold Point Circle North, Hixson
Admission: $5 per person, $15 per family; cash or check only at door
To register: Reservations required by Thursday; call 842-6748
AREA MAGIC CLUBS
• Chattanooga Magic Club: Tuesday, April 16, 7 p.m., East Ridge Retirement Center, 1417 N. Mack Smith Road.
• Fellowship of Christian Magicians: Tonight, 7 p.m., Salvation Army Cafe/Coffeehouse, 437 Inman St., Cleveland, Tenn.; or Thursday, April 11, 7 p.m., Garrison Baptist Church, 260 Garrison Road, Dayton, Tenn.
Pick a card, any card," Ron Williams encourages a volunteer.
Performing the Rising Card illusion, the Cleveland, Tenn., magician explains: "You get somebody to pick a card out of a deck. You take an art pad and draw a picture of their card like you're reading their mind.
"Of course, you get it wrong. So you act flustered and start making magical gestures and then, in the picture, the correct card rises out of the deck."
OK, so maybe it's not David Blaine hanging in a plexiglass box over the River Thames, but it shows that local amateurs have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Williams and his wife, Cindy, are members of Chattanooga Magic Club, Ring 112, the local affiliate of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Club members will present their seventh annual Family Magic Night on Saturday at Chester Frost Park, sponsored by Hamilton County Parks and Recreation.
Club President Jack Wagner says the 90-minute program will feature the talent of four members. Other club members will mingle with the crowd before showtime, building anticipation with close-up magic such as card and coin tricks and sleights of hand.
Anchoring the show will be professional magician Scott Fillers, who has been doing magic for more than 30 years and won the International Brotherhood of Magicians' competition in 1987.
"I'll probably float a child out of the audience" -- he's not joking -- "and I'll have my lovely rabbit, which will possibly appear and disappear," Fillers previews.
His act includes a lot of audience participation, he adds.
"I do a magical comedy surgery that involves liquid going through the body of a person."
Fillers says tech-savvy kids are often a tougher audience than their parents, which is why he gears his act toward having fun, not making fun.
"With all the technology today, children are sometimes a difficult audience," he says. "A lot of kids don't liked to be 'tricked.' Adults know you are doing an illusion, they don't care as much about being fooled. They enjoy the process more.
"But if you're having fun with what you're doing, the audience is going to have fun with you," says Fillers.
Good patter is 25 percent of a trick's success, claims Wagner.
"Patter is as important as the trick itself. Presentation is about 60 percent and the rest is how you dress and interact. It truly is a theatrical art," he says.
Wagner says club members range in age from 11-year-old Dakota Griggs of Dalton, Ga., to 88-year-old Vaughn Stevens. The members' day jobs range from students and electrical engineers to a locksmith, construction worker and McKee Foods employee.
"Anyone can come, we're here for the community," says Wagner, 63, who learned his first trick when he was a second-grader. He entertained for college parties while a student at the University of Tennessee and returned to the hobby in his 50s after marrying and raising a family.
Wagner says no one is required to perform for meetings, but many members like to try out their new tricks on the others for the feedback and constructive suggestions for improvement.
"I like to concentrate on not just doing a trick, but learning the mechanics and sleight of hand behind it because, once you learn that, you can apply it to thousands of other tricks," he says.
Mastering sleight of hand, developing a good patter while pulling off the trick is "good mental exercise," Wagner believes.
Octogenarian Stevens agrees, crediting the focus and mental stimulation required for maintaining his alert state of mind.
Another perk, he says, is the hobby taught him "to stand up and talk to people."
"I was kind of shy, like every kid. I'd get up in front of a crowd and get a little nervous. This taught me how to prepare ahead of time what to do and say."
Stevens, a retired electrician and shop foreman for Southern Railroad, joined the club in 1956. He's been doing magic since he was 9 years old.
"My first trick was the 'broken and restored match.' Saw it in a catalog and sent off to Detroit for it. Gave 15 cents for the trick -- and that included the handkerchief," he chuckles.
Wagner credits David Copperfield, Criss Angel and street magician David Blaine for a new surge of interest in magic.
"They've got a TV camera shooting over their shoulders and making the audience feel like they are the magician," he explains. "I believe less than 1 percent of the population has experienced a live magician performing."
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...