Trick Play

The Cleveland Yo-Yo Club brings old-school fun to a new generation.

Thirteen-year-old Darnell Hairston wields his yo-yo faster than the eye can follow. He loops the string over his finger once. Or is it twice? He throws the yo-yo to the right and snaps it back, then hurls it to the left and pulls it back to his hand.

And the name of this trick is? ...

"I don't know," he admits with surprising nonchalance. "I just made it up."

He then turns to go back to his friends, who are practicing their own tricks at this Wednesday night meeting of the Cleveland Yo-Yo Club in the Collinwood neighborhood's Waterloo Arts District.

The organization, which was started in 2008, is funded through a Neighborhood Connections grant and sponsorships from Duncan Toys, in Middlefield, Ohio, and the YoYo Factory, in Gilbert, Ariz. The group's co-founders, Steve Brown and Perry Prine, both 34, estimate 20 to 25 youngsters belong to the club.

But these kids, who come from as far away as Grafton, aren't playing around. They're in training. The club is sponsoring the first Ohio state yo-yo competition at the Beachland Ballroom on July 31 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Brown is expecting 30 to 40 competitors. He stresses anyone can compete in the event, even folks who have never thrown a yo-yo. Trainers will show novices the correct way to toss the toy and keep it spinning. Then, the newbies can compete to see who manages to keep the yo-yo spinning the longest.

"We'll be clocking from throw to extinction," Brown says.

That's the term the professionals use, and Brown is a pro. In fact, he's a U.S. National Yo-Yo Master. He started playing around with yo-yos in 1995. Over the years, his skill and talent brought him from his home in Jacksonville, Fla., to Cleveland, where he became a representative for Duncan.

Brown no longer works for Duncan but keeps a hand in the sport by teaching every Wednesday evening and Sunday afternoon at the Cleveland Yo-Yo Club, and he doesn't skimp on the basics.

"We start by showing folks how to put a string on a yo-yo, " Brown says. "Fifty percent of the yo-yo is the string."

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