Some people in the audience cheered when Will Rotten swallowed a steel sword Thursday night in the Ballroom, others gaped at him in disbelief. Will Rotten, with Rotten Bros., came to St. Cloud State as a part of Huskypalooza.
Leauna Hauser, the event coordinator, said attendance for Huskypalooza more than doubled, comparing Thursday night’s numbers with last year’s numbers. There were almost 500 people at the Atwood Mall by 6 p.m., even though the event didn’t officially open until 8 p.m.
A number of campus departments, including the athletics department and UPB, helped organize the event.
“It’s a collaborative event,” she said. “It’s definitely not a one-man job.”
Hauser said organizing everything takes a long time. Jokingly, she added that she starts the planning for next year’s event right after tonight. The event can take months later to plan out. She said the first order of business is to get everybody involved and on the same page to find out what to feature and to start brainstorming ideas.
But, it seemed like their hard work paid off, as Hauser said the night ran smoothly. Much of it could be attributed to the weather and time of the semester, she said.
“Mother Nature is looking out,” she said. “I hope more people come out.”
Part of the job is getting students to come out and enjoy the event, she said, adding that some students don’t know it’s even going on. Debo Ojo, a senior communications and economics major, said it was his first time at the event.
“I saw people having fun, and I joined them,” Ojo said.
He appreciated the sight of students interacting with one another, instead of staring down at their phones. Aside from a few pictures with friends, students seemed to have left their phone out of sight, for the most part.
“It brings people together,” he said about the event. “If we have more events like this, we can unite the community.”
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He said it’s events like these that bring students and the community together. If you walked around the Atwood Mall Thursday night, you passed by hundreds of students, flashing carnival lights, chatter and music sounding into the night.
Groups of students and community members stood in line, waiting for a turn on the Sizzler, or for a chance to leap more than 15 feet into the air on trampolines.
Others gathered around a fire, roasting s’mores before making way for a quick bite. Students seemed to be letting loose, which is what Hauser was hoping for, she said. Now that it’s getting toward the end of the semester, she said it’s a time for students to let go of stress for the night and have fun.
Later on, students filed into the Atwood Ballroom, where the main performance of the night was held. Will Rotten came to the stage around 9:30 p.m. He introduced himself, told about his coming into the business and then showed what he’s learned.
It wasn’t long before Rotten took a white sheet, flicked it out into the air and laid it down on stage. He pulled a bucket filled with glass toward the front of the stage. He dumped half of it out, pouring glass onto the sheet.
But, before going any further, Rotten was off the stage and into the crowd. He asked a student to pull one piece of glass out of the bucket to make sure it wasn’t fake, that he wasn’t faking.
He hopped back on stage, emptied the bucket and literally began jumping on the pile of glass with the encouragement of the crowd.
Rotten continued to narrate his Circus Side Show acts with stories and jokes. He told his first experience at a side show. He was a boy, and his father, a police officer working the state fair, gave him enough money for lunch — only lunch, he explained.
He took $1 and paid his admission into the side show tent, where he saw his first demonstration of sword-swallowing, fire eating and more. He was fascinated, because he “knew it was real.”
From there on, he began his career as a magician and later as a performer. He’s appeared on “Ripley’s Before it or Not” and “The Tonight Show.”
As he cleaned up the glass, he moved on with his act. The audience continue to cheer Rotten on as he performed one demonstration after another. At one point during his show, he pulled Abby Jacobs from the crowd on stage.
He draped her in a feathery scarf as a way to make her a part of the show. Based on her reactions, it seemed that she might not have been ready for what he asked her to do next.
Rotten, with his red handkerchief in hand, pulled out a steel sword. The blade reflected the stage lights and glittered above the stage.
Jacobs was close by. Rotten explained what he was going to do next. The audience sat still and the room grew quiet.
Rotten thrust the blade up into the air in a precise way and guide the blade, point down, into his throat. When the blade had disappeared into his body, he bent over to show the crowd his success and motioned for Jacobs to remove the sword.
Rotten kept Jacobs on stage, pulling another student in for a different act, and continually interacted with the audience. Laughter and applause filled the room, especially at the end of Rotten’s act, when the audience stood from their seat to give him an “unsolicited” standing ovation.