Ta-Da! Magic festival returns this weekend to Steamboat

Sophie Dingle
For the Steamboat Pilot & Today
Jon Armstrong is most famous for his “tiny plunger” trick, which involves, well, a miniature plunger. He will perform this weekend during the Steamboat is Magic! Festival at the Chief Theater on Lincoln Avenue.
File photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Prepare to be amazed. 

The fifth annual Steamboat is Magic! Festival returns to town this weekend. There will be card tricks, disappearing acts, sleight-of-hand and much more magic as the festival takes the stage at the Chief Theater on Friday, Sept. 13 and Saturday, Sept. 14.

“This is one of my favorite events each year,” said Scott Parker, executive director of the Chief Theater.

The historic theater and Steamboat Springs landmark hosted its first magic show in 1938 when Marquis, a world-renowned magician, traveled through town.

More recently, magic got an upgrade when David and Leeman, semi-finalists on the popular NBC TV show “America’s Got Talent,” performed in 2014. It was during this show that Parker met magician Jon Armstrong and they discussed doing a magic festival together. 

It was a vacationer who brought the idea to Parker’s attention.

“There was a gentleman in town, retired, here to ski on vacation, and he saw a show at the Chief,” Parker said. “He had fallen in love with magic in his hometown of Chicago, and he reached out to me because he thought the theater would be the perfect venue for magic. And, obviously, it was a good idea.”

The next year, with help from Armstrong, that idea came to fruition.

Armstrong, who grew up in Orlando, Florida, was inspired to try his hand at magic after multiple visits to the theme parks where he was exposed to different tricks. After carefully honing his skills, he became the resident magician at Walt Disney World in Orlando at age 20. Five years later, he was a recurring headliner at Caesar’s Magical Empire in Las Vegas and, before long, was touring the world.

To date, Armstrong has traveled to more than 40 countries performing his magic tricks. 

If you go…

What: Steamboat is Magic! Festival
Friday, Sept. 13: 7 p.m. Jon Armstrong
Saturday, Sept 14: 4 p.m.  Magic Workshop; 6 p.m. Family Show with Taylor Hughes; 8 p.m. Shawn Preston, Closing Gala
Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.
Cost: Individual tickets $15 for adults, $10 for children; Magic Pass for access to all four shows and workshop $60 for adults, $40 for children

His favorite international locale to perform? “England,” he said, “They seem to just get me over there.”

Armstrong has been featured on NBC’s “Today,” “The Tonight Show,” “Masters of Illusion” on the CW, “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” and stars in the Netflix documentary, “Magicians: Life in the Impossible.” He was named Close Up Magician of the Year in 2007 and has been nominated for the award, presented by The Academy of Magical Arts, four times.

“The festival in Steamboat is always awesome,” Armstrong said. “I’m so happy to return for another year.”

The festival features Armstrong in addition to two other magicians, Taylor Hughes and Denver magician Shawn Preston. The three will perform individually, then collaborate for a closing gala on the last night of the festival. 

This year, the festival features a workshop, which Armstrong said he is excited about.

“You’re going to be able to learn how to do some simple tricks to fool your friends, family, co-workers and have a great time doing it,” he said.

But he can’t give away too much.

Armstrong is most famous for his “tiny plunger” trick, which involves, well, a miniature plunger. He performed this on “Penn & Teller: Fool Us.”

And, while a tiny plunger may be seen this weekend in Steamboat, Armstrong said the festival “runs the whole gamut.”

“The festival has been very popular in past years,” he said. “This year, we’re doing cards, mind reading, magic with regular objects, magical story telling and disappearing acts.”

So, hang on to your rabbits — this is sure to be a magical weekend in Steamboat.

Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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