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Former Teacher Instructs via Entertainment

He walks on stilts, rides a unicycle and pulls rabbits out of hats to convey core Christian values to kids across the prairies.


Popular Calgary magician Steve Harmer attributes his initial fascination with optical illusion and sleight of hand to the influence of his father, a Baptist pastor, who acquired an interest in ventriloquism when Steve was growing up.

"Dad was influenced by some of the old radio shows like Charlie McCarthy and ended up carving and creating his own ventriloquist's dummy. He then began performing at father and son banquets around Ontario where we lived," said the educator who spent 22 years with the Calgary Board of Education as a teacher and principal before pursuing a career in what he calls motivational magic.

Harmer often accompanied his father to such events and remembers how proud he was of his dad as the "star" of the show. "But even more than that," he clarified, "what Dad did was a unique ministry that enabled him to very effectively share the Gospel and I was intrigued by that."

Steve's interest in the world of optical illusion was enhanced when, as a Boy Scout, he first witnessed the performance of a magician. His brother taught him to juggle in high school whereupon Harmer teamed up with a peer to perform juggling and magic tricks at parties.

"In about tenth grade my pal hooked me up with a magic shop in Buffalo, New York," he explained. "There I learned a few tricks plus how to make balloon animals. When I returned I discovered that my little routine could hold an audience. The first show I ever did was for a choir that I sang in during my first year in university."

So positive was the response to the budding entertainer's debut that Harmer was "hooked."

Moving west to launch his teaching career, Harmer was invited to perform at Calaway Park, the popular theme park just west of Calgary.

"They were looking for a stilts guy," he grinned, "and over the years I'd made and mastered several pairs. In fact, I have a pair of stilts where my feet are ten feet off the ground and another where they're six feet up."

Harmer's combination of juggling, stilt-walking, unicycling, walking on his hands and "tricks" involving rabbits and doves became so popular at the park that his act is now a regular part of the summer fare at Calaway.

"I'd learned from my father and other influences that using tricks and magic was a great way to deliver a message," the father of three noted. "In fact, my dad used to say that the children's story at church is often the only sermon some people ever hear."

News of Harmer's feats at Calaway Park combined with the fact that he's a professional educator have opened doors for him to take his show into a number of schools in Calgary and southern Alberta.

"Principals and teachers are thrilled to have me come in and talk to their students about topics like preventing violence and bullying, respecting others, peer support, saying "no" to drugs and smoking, and so on," he reported. "Of course, many of these values that are so popular with today's educators are core Christian values—telling the truth, respecting one another, being courageous, fair play, caring for others, etc."

At age 45, Harmer, who holds bachelor degrees in education, physical education and a master's in counselling, took a leave from his teaching career. Working in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club Community Services, he received an excellent response to his presentation at 20 schools.

"I expected to be a starving artist," he chuckled, "but my goal was to match my income as a teacher, which I did. The next year was even better and I soon had to decide whether I would return to teaching or launch a new career."

Four years and some 860 schools across Alberta, B.C., and Saskatchewan later, Harmer's schedule is filling up fast.

"I'm having a lot of fun," he grinned. "But more than that, I find great fulfillment in using my skills to communicate Christian values, whether or not the audience is even aware they are such."

Further information regarding the variety of topics that Harmer addresses can be found on his website at www.motivationalmagic.ca.

Tim Callaway pastors Faith Community Baptist Church (Airdrie, AB - suburb of Calgary), serves as Assoc. Editor of Edmonton-based Business Report magazine, Alberta correspondent for Christian Week, editorial columnist for City Light News, and a regular contributor to the Calgary Herald, Airdrie Echo, and several other newspapers.

Originally published in City Light News, Summer 2004.
http://www.calgarychristian.com/articles/903-ladanse.htm

 

 
 
 
 

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