Burlington - Nearly everyone is able to Walk the Dog and Rock the Baby. But when it comes time to Reach for the Moon and Split the Atom, any nonchalance fades and the crowd holds its breath.
Tricks such as these were a great challenge - and also a source of fun - as a few dozen spectators and participants gathered at the Spinning Top & Yo-Yo Museum for Wisconsin's 11th annual Yo-Yo Convention.
Joey Greenamyer, who at 7 was the youngest competitor, reached his limit when it came to the Flying Saucer. He flatly and decidedly informed the judges: "My yo-yo can't do that."
The event's ability to draw participants of all ages year after year is a testament to the staying power of the yo-yo in an era of much more high-tech toys.
The competitors perform in three age categories - 11 and younger, 12 through 18, and 19 and up - as well as a freestyle competition for all ages where they performed their own yo-yo routines.
In the non-freestyle competitions, they had to perform a set of 20 yo-yo tricks on an ascending ladder of difficulty. After three mistakes, they were out. To win a prize, competitors had to complete at least five tricks successfully.
The museum and gift shop is located in a small storefront off the main street in Burlington.
The three contest judges - one was the state yo-yo champion from 1953 - said the toy has never quite regained the popularity it had in Milwaukee in the 1950s. Still, interest in the science and art of yo-yoing resurges every few years, sometimes unpredictably.
Greenamyer took to the yo-yo two years ago, said his mother, Jennifer Brown.
"We try to focus on the basics, and steer him away from video games," Brown said. Practicing the yo-yo has improved her son's concentration and dexterity, helping with both school and piano lessons. "When he decides to do something, he does it," Brown added.
Dylan Kowalski, 19, said he picked up the yo-yo three years ago when his friend at the online company ExtremeSpin.com hooked him on the hobby. "I didn't start it until it was, like, dying out," Kowalski said.
But it won't die out as long as people like Chuck Dawson are around. In addition to judging the competition, Dawson has a personal collection of 3,700 yo-yos. Like the other judges, he also helps mentor younger yo-yo enthusiasts.
And as the competitors step into a small, simple rectangle in front of the audience to perform the tricks, it becomes clear that as old-fashioned as the sport might seem, it, too, can evolve with the times.
The two youngest participants perform The Elevator trick flawlessly, rapidly gliding the yo-yo up the string, but in a way the judges don't quite recognize. Dawson remarks that what the young people call The Elevator is really Monkey Up a String.
"I'm going to show them how we used to do The Elevator," says another judge, Barry North. "It's totally different than how they do it today."
But youth counts for something, as teenager John Domanski outperforms his 45-year-old father. Dan Domanski loses his concentration after a slight flub on his fifth trick, Rock the Baby. Then, despite the best of intentions, he simply can't hold it together for the increasingly complicated maneuvers of tricks such as the Flying Saucer, Tidal Wave and Dizzy Baby.
John Domanski, 15, said he likes the challenge of yo-yoing, and also the chance to just goof around. The Muskego resident took second in the amateur division at the Midwest regional competition, held at the Mall of America in Minnesota. John said it never crossed his mind that his father might beat him Sunday.
"The way it got started was that he was cleaning his room and found a yo-yo" about three years ago, Dan Domanski said. "I taught him his first trick, which was how to throw it down. And ever since then he's just blown me away."