Coombs fair a magical event for children
There's never any shortage of evidence of the miracle of birth at the Coombs Fair, with baby animals and their sires in pens throughout the grounds, but there’s also no shortage of other kinds of magic, too.
Ricardo Portuondo has been entertaining youngsters and their parents at the fair for the last five years with his show, Magic and Illusions by Ricardo. Whether it’s mysteriously uncoupling metal rings, pulling sponge balls from people’s ears or even — his signature act — levitating them, Ricardo makes a point of leaving kids with eyes wide and mouths asking, how did he do that?
There’s no deep, mystical reason why he got involved in the magical arts however.
“This is my second job,” he said in a break between shows. “My real job is selling dental alloy. I got into magic as a way to get in the door. I found that when you go to a customer’s office, they might be kind of hesitant, but I would just pull a sponge ball out and they would start to laugh. It breaks the ice and the next time I come it’s not a cold call. It’s a warm call and the first thing they will say to me is, ‘have you learned any new tricks?’”
Ricardo wasn’t the only magician in evidence Saturday however. Twisting up balloons for the younger set — and displaying a fine skill at prestidigitation at the same times was Comox resident Greg Ladret.
“I’m usually Rusty Barnacle but I feel like a shipwrecked pirate out here at the county fair,” he said in between twistings. “I need to make a little scratch to get my ship back in shape.”
Ladret, who was named the winner of the award for outstanding showmanship at the Los Angeles Convention of the Pacific Coast Association of Magic, was contenting himself with bending a few coins and discovering sponge balls in odd places while he made up his balloon animals Saturday.
He said he has been fascinated by the magical arts ever since he was just a little older than the tykes he was making his balloon swords for.
“I started doing magic tricks and stuff with cards when I was five or six years old,” he said, flipping a toonie around to make it look like it was made of rubber. “It fascinates me to be able to do things like this. I like the reaction of people.”
Until he was about 28, he confined his magic to card tricks.
“Then I started picking up a few other things,” he said. “I was down in North Carolina and picked up some books on magic and didn’t read them for a long time until I rediscovered them and realized I had all these books that told me things about magic.”
Ladret performs at everything from fairs and festivals to birthday parties and in each show he makes a point of encouraging audience participation, literally bringing the audience into the act and making them the stars of the show.
They are two magicians with very different acts and who got into the business for very different reasons.
However, each of these illusionists gets the same secret inner smile each time a tyke’s eyes go wide and he or she stutters … “But … but … how did you do that?”