- ILLUSTRATION BY LAUREN COOK
- AMAZING FEATS : Mark Wilder sparks smiles and laughs on one wheel.
There’s a new busker performing at SLO’s Downtown Thursday Night Farmers Market. You’ve probably heard whispers of him while making your weekly produce purchases. But may I present to you the charming juggler and unicyclist, Mark Wilder.
When asked where he sees his talent taking him, the humble performer from Morro Bay said, “The dream would be to make a living entertaining. I’m not the world’s best juggler, but I love entertaining and making people laugh.”
Wilder is pursuing this dream and has recently started performing for private parties, festivals, and events.
His show has become one of the most crowded acts on Thursday night—and for good reason: It’s simply too fun to pass by. While riding a six-foot-tall “giraffe” unicycle, he and cohort Tyler Niday awe the crowds as they juggle fire and act silly. Children literally flock to the pair. Parents and hip college students giggle while these men run around performing great feats in Converse sneakers, plaid pants with suspenders, and hot-pink spandex.
How does he prepare for such a show?
“Deep knee bends, and lots of one-armed pushups,” he revealed. “I focus a lot on the glutes. But really, definitely stretch. My first time performing I ended up having to lie on the pavement for a while, I was so cramped up.”
Although Wilder only began sharing his happy talents this past November, he’s been preparing for some time.
“I bought my first unicycle 9 1/2 years ago on my 22nd birthday. I had just decided to quit drinking and smoking completely and needed a good outlet,” Wilder explained.
Now he owns seven different unicycles, including a mountain unicycle for off-road adventures, and he’s building a 10-foot tall “giraffe.”
Wilder wishes he’d discovered unicycling when he was much younger and believes his passion can positively impact local youth.
“I want to start a youth circus arts program to get kids excited about juggling and unicycling,” he said. “It’s a great boost for self-esteem. Not everyone is into organized sports, and it’s a great outlet.
“In an age where so many children get diagnosed with A.D.D., unicycling and juggling are perfect activities because there’s so much going on all at once,” he said.
San Luis Obispo’s Parks and Recreation Commission recognized Wilder with January’s Volunteer of the Month Award for his time spent volunteering at Pacheco, Bishop’s Peak, Hawthorne, Sinsheimer, and CL Smith elementary schools’ after-school programs, teaching kids how to juggle and unicycle.
Wilder also leads the Central Coast Juggling and Unicycle Club, made up of locals of all different ages and levels of experience. He invites everyone to come out and learn. The group meets Tuesday nights from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Cuesta College cafeteria and on Friday nights from 5 to 9 p.m. at Cal Poly in the courtyard of the Architecture Building. On the weekends, he and the club often hold unicycle basketball games at Emerson and Meadow Park.
It’s obvious that Mark Wilder is no ordinary busker. And his positive outlook and childlike energy are rare and contagious. If you and the whole family seek escape from the sounds of the Lord of the Cello and the puppet man, or simply want to watch a good juggling show, catch Wilder’s act on Feb. 24, on Nipomo Street; or March 3 on Chorro Street.
And if you want to make Wilder the highlight of your upcoming birthday party or local event, contact him at (530) 902-3293.
Calling all bike scenesters! The San Luis Obispo County Bicycle Coalition is hosting its annual Saint Patty’s Day Potluck fundraiser on March 5 from 5 to 9:30 p.m. All of the proceeds go toward supporting the coalition and its various bike advocacy programs. Entry is $10 and includes a free raffle ticket; however, those who become coalition members at the event get in free. Bring a main dish, dessert, or beverage and have a wheel good time at the SLO Senior Center on 1445 Santa Rosa Street. And don’t forget to wear green. …
Feb. 28 is Lady’s Only Night at the Bike Kitchen. The San Luis Obispo Bike Kitchen acts as a community toolbox for people who want to learn how to fix their own bikes. The Kitchen now hosts a Lady’s Only Night every last Monday of the month to empower women in a space that’s friendly and encouraging to learn about the ins-and-outs of their bikes, from how to change a flat to true a wheel. The doors will be open for women from 4 to 7 p.m. at 860 Pacific St., suite 105.
Intern Lauren Cook compiled this week’s Strokes and Plugs. Send ideas for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org.