Before the age of 2, the game “got your nose” will leave young minds mystified with the simplest sleight of hand. As people grow older, their minds are not as easily fooled.
But a skilled illusionist, such as the Magical Mr. McClure, can step in and suspend disbelief, allowing all ages to believe in magic.
Having spent the past 25 years as a professional magician, Jeff McClure of Gainesville owns and operates Magic Entertainment, in which he books a variety of acts ranging from stilt walkers and balloon artists to DJs and costume characters. But magic is his bread and butter.
His love for magic started at a young age for McClure, who instantly knew he wanted to share it with others.
“My uncle bought me a magic set when I was spending the weekend with him,” McClure said. “I spent the rest of that summer learning the tricks in the magic kit.”
After performing a magic show for his second-grade class, the positive reaction set McClure on a course that has never veered from the path of illusions.
At 44 years old, McClure does what he loved as child. He performs magic shows across North Georgia at various venues for a range of ages. On Saturday, McClure performed for children and their parents at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center.
For one of his tricks, McClure chose 10-year-old Gabrielle Gettig of Sugar Hill from the crowd to help. He had Gabrielle hold a cone made of newspaper over her head as he poured milk into it.
“I got scared,” Gabrielle said.
But the trained magician made the milk disappear, leaving Gabrielle wondering. Then he shaped the 10-year-old into a pot and had her younger sister, Victoria, tip her over to pour milk out her arm.
“I didn’t feel anything,” Gabrielle said. “It just came out.”
This magical moment which leaves the audience wondering is one reason McClure likes performing in an age ruled by technology.
“It’s really just knowing that people are entertained by it,” McClure said. “To be able to send somebody back to that primal feeling of that sense of awe and wonder, that’s what magic is all about.”
McClure said the best thing about children’s shows is, it is the first time kids are seeing a magician perform a trick in front of them. He said he chooses tricks he remembered as a child from different shows but makes the illusions his own.
“You can’t go wrong with a bunny rabbit,” McClure said. “Trixie the Wonder Bunny is the star of my children’s magic show.”
He added many adults ask after the show how the rabbit appeared out of a balloon.
His shows are not just for birthday parties. McClure performs for children during summer reading programs at local libraries and for adults at corporate events and holiday parties.
“I really enjoy doing closer magic in corporate settings for adults, because a lot of them haven’t seen a magician since they were a kid,” he said.
Walking up to different adults after they have had a glass or two of wine and doing a couple of magic tricks in front of them “blows their minds,” McClure.
“It takes them back to that childhood experience of the sense of wonderment that a lot of us forget as we get older,” McClure said.
Prizma Contreraz of Gainesville, who brought her son and daughter to the show Saturday, agreed.
“It was kind of scary, but it was fun,” said Contreraz, who helped McClure perform at trick. “It brought back memories from when I was a kid, because I used to go to events like this.”
After hearing about the show, she was glad she brought her children, Emily and Kevin Gonzalez, who helped McClure with two tricks, too.
“It was great. Very fun for the kids,” Contreraz said.
“My favorite part was the giraffe. That was pretty cool,” Contreraz said, referencing a segment in which McClure turned a drawing from one animal into another. “I don’t even know how he did that, but that looked real.”
McClure, who had no formal magician’s training, learned how to be an illusionist in his early 20s while performing with children’s variety show. He then traveled with Royal Magic Circus for a few years and learned through sharing with other magicians in the field. He also experienced the star status of being an illusionist.
“A lot of times we were in really small towns that didn’t get this type of entertainment on a regular basis, so it was like being a celebrity,” McClure said. “Having that kind of experience, of people coming up afterward wanting to take a picture with you and get an autograph, that’s truly mind blowing.”
Even though it can be an extremely stressful business, McClure said it still beats a traditional 9-to-5 job.
“You walk into an environment where people don’t know who you are and you spend the first 5 or 10 minutes just winning them over,” he said. “That’s a lot of pressure.”
But the show is not about performing the most difficult trick in the book. The Gainesville State College and Gainesville Theatre Alliance program graduate knows about the importance of stage presence. He said his focus is on entertaining the audience.
“I wanted to learn what was the easiest approach to make something happen so that I could concentrate on being entertaining,” McClure said.
In addition to performing, McClure teaches magic and easy ice-breaking tricks to corporate managers. Furthermore, he runs a costume and prop company called Neon Props.
But overall, he enjoys helping curious minds about the art of magic.
“There’s a lot more to it than knowing how the trick is done,” he said. “You have to know how to present it and make it entertaining and make it something more than a puzzle.”
For more information on the Magical Mr. McClure, visit www.gotmagic.net.