MUCH more than just unicycles…

BY DARCIE MOORE Times Record Staff 2015

Why do you learn to ride a two-wheel unicycle that requires you to pedal backward to go forward? And while juggling?

“Because I can,” said Courtney Hall, a senior at Mt. Ararat High School and nine-year veteran of the Woodside One Wheelers.

courtney-hallShe joined WOW in 2006, the year the circus troupe began at Woodside Elementary School. Then a third grader, she got excited about WOW after a school assembly. It was brand new and different than anything else she knew, which is what interested her.

Overwhelmed at the first practice, she actually found walking on the circus ball easiest for her, which took her a couple of sessions to learn. You essentially walk on the ball and keep feet moving. But she struggled to ride a unicycle.

“I remember just over and over, I just sat on the unicycle and I just couldn’t get anywhere,” Hall said, “and I watched other people that had already learned how to ride and was like, ‘How are they doing that?’”

She competed against a friend; the two were in the gym every recess and at practices, practicing constantly. When her friend beat her and learned how to ride unicycle, it motivated her to do the same. The next weekend she practiced at home, over and over, until she finally rode the unicycle the length of her driveway. And she remembers jumping up and down.

To learn new things Hall said, “I just have to keep doing it and every time you get on a unicycle and try something new, I try to think about what I’m doing wrong so I can do it better the next time.”

The next practice she was zooming around the gym on the one-wheeled contraption. That was just the start.

Hall sets goals for herself and makes herself work to accomplish them. At every WOW camp, she chose a juggling and a unicycle component to work on.

Juggling is one of Hall’s specialties. She does three and four-ball juggling tricks, and is working on a five-ball trick. And she does it while riding the unicycle.

“A lot of it is muscle memory and a lot of it is getting it to the point where I don’t have to think about it,” Hall said. “When I juggle, I can walk around and have a conversation with somebody and juggle at the same time.”

After learning to ride the short unicycle, she went on to learn how to ride the 5- foot giraffe, the three-wheel unicycle and the much more difficult two-wheel unicycle. The two-wheel has to be pedaled backward to go forward. Counter-intuitive to say the least, she can ride the two-wheeled cycle while juggling, too. Oh, and she can ride the Ultimate Wheel — a wheel with pedals on it with no seat at all.

Riding unicycles is about using your core center of gravity, said Hall.

Most recently she’s been stepping up some of the tricks she can do and is working on wheel-walking, the peg-leg and the bunny hop. The coaches say the kids always are ramping up what they can do as just learning to ride a short unicycle gets stagnant.

Sometimes Hall said she forgets how special it is what the Woodside One Wheelers can do, “until I watch somebody else watch us do what we do, and then I’m like ‘Oh my God I’m actually doing this.’

“Because I’m not an athletic person outside of WOW, so the fact that I am so passionate about unicycling especially, it surprises me how much I like it,” she added.

Hall is looking forward to the WOW community show at Mt. Ararat High School on Friday night, where every WOW member performs, she said, and gets to highlight their skill.

“Without WOW, I would not be as confident as I am overall,” Hall said. “WOW really brought me out of my shell. I’m naturally a very shy person and not one for public speaking or anything. I can now be comfortable just to ride in front of thousands of people down Washington Avenue and not think twice about it.

“It helps me in school so much because it just makes me that much more confident with what I do, and what I can do,” she added.

Once more of a follower, Hall said she is now a leader. She often helps the younger WOW members and serves as a kind of counselor at the WOW camps, where she can offer coaches the perspective of the unicycle riders.

She participates in some other afterschool activities, but Hall plans around the Tuesday night WOW practices and has worked hard to keep the group in her life. It is her time to relax.

WOW also has opened doors for her to work on other projects and activities, and the need to challenge herself in WOW has entered other aspects of her life, including school.

She has challenged herself to take more difficult courses, such as an Advanced Placement English course this year. Now, rather than sitting silent in the back of the class, she is more vocal in the classroom discussions.

Accepted to four colleges already, Hall plans to study film and become a film editor. As part of her Capstone Project, an enrichment project and graduation requirement at Mt. Ararat High School, Hall shot a documentary following the journey of two WOW students learning to ride a unicycle. The project allowed her to combine her two passions.

Hall rode with WOW in the 2010 Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in Washington, D.C., and she’s happy that she will ride in that parade for the second time this April, bringing her full circle.

Wherever she attends college, she will take her unicycle with her and all the other WOW skills she has acquired in the last nine years.

Community Service: What it Means to Me

By Tucker Kenney- WOW member & Hebron Academy Class of ’24

Demo to camp kids

Over the course of my fifteen year lifetime, I have had the privilege of experiencing some of the most exciting, fun, and fascinating times of my life through community service. Community service is something that often goes overlooked, and doesn’t get the recognition that it should. However, the impacts that community service itself has on others can be tremendous and incredible. To me, community service means providing some source of help, entertainment, or just simply helping out the community in any way possible. I have done this in several ways during my time, and I hope it is something that I will continue to do, because as I mentioned above, its impacts can be tremendous. I enjoy helping others because it makes me feel accomplished, and that I have helped someone in need. Community service goes beyond just food drives, car washes, and penny drives. Community service can be anything as simple as holding the door for someone at the grocery store. Now, it may seem cliche, but it’s true. Sometimes all someone needs is something like that to make their day just a bit better

One of the ways that I personally have been able to grow my community service skills and perform them is through Woodside One Wheelers. Woodside One Wheelers is a performing circus arts group based out of Topsham, Maine at my elementary school, Woodside Elementary School. I have been a member of Woodside One Wheelers, also known as W.O.W., for about nine years. I started performing with W.O.W. in grade one, and am still a member to this day. As a group we not only perform, but help the local community. W.O.W. often runs food drives, fundraisers, and benefit performances for local charities or organizations. W.O.W. has taken me to many places that I would not have been able to go otherwise, including the West Virginia Strawberry Festival Parade and Street Performance, The Washington D.C. Cherry Blossom Parade, The Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, The Philadelphia 76er’s Halftime Show, and many more. These trips have allowed us to provide entertainment and help communities. I remember one specific event that made a lasting impression on me. This was during our Philadelphia trip in 2018 when we were performing and teaching at a downtown YMCA in Philadelphia. This performance was especially important to me because it made me happy to see all the children’s faces light up after seeing a unicycle for the first time. This experience may not seem like a typical community service event, but to me it is one of the best examples of giving back to the community. We not only taught these kids how to juggle and to perform with a group, but we taught them how to set a goal and work for it. That is special, and something that many children don’t have exposure to growing up. Once again, making these kids’ days just a little bit better left me with a smile on my face and gave me the feeling that I had helped and given back to the community. 

Another opportunity that has allowed me to provide community service and help local communities is the Hebron Round Square. Round Square has taken me on many adventures already, and I hope to continue these adventures for my entire high school career. Through Round Square, I have participated in many events such as trash cleanup along Station Road, camping trips, and volunteer trips. Similar to W.O.W., I have one experience that stands out from others, and I wanted to talk a little more about it. MidCoast Hunger Prevention Program is a hunger prevention program based out of Brunswick, Maine, not far from my childhood home. The goal of MidCoast Hunger, otherwise known as M.C.H.P.P., is to put food in the kitchens of local families in need who are struggling to find food and meals. Through Hebron Round Square, I was able to take on my own individual project and plan a volunteer opportunity at M.C.H.P.P.. About five of us went to Brunswick and volunteered for about four hours helping make soup, cut vegetables, and plan meals. This experience was special to me because I was able to give back to a local organization that is close to my heart. It felt heartwarming to go home knowing that we had provided food for families who did not have three meals a day in a warm home. 

Creating bonds with friends and getting together to help out the communities around us is something that I will always remember and value for the rest of my life, and I hope to continue doing it. As was mentioned in my brief explanation of my W.O.W. performance in Philadelphia, my community service has not only been special to me because I have helped others around me, but that I have also been able to learn valuable lessons within myself. The community service I have provided has allowed me to pass on lessons about not giving up and setting goals to achieve eventually. To me, community service is about giving back to others around you in order to make a difference and a better world.

My Unicycle Hockey Quest

By Jack, grade 6

Unicycle hockey is the coolest thing. It is a sport that combines the uniqueness of unicycling with the fast-paced action of hockey. I like fast and action-packed sports. I have played hockey for about eight years.

This past summer I learned to ride a unicycle. I first came across the sport of unicycle hockey when I read an article about it in the Wall Street Journal. I was so excited about this sport that I contacted a member of the Massachusetts Unicycle Club in Berkshire, MA. The player I communicated with encouraged me to recruit some friend and start a team. His advice was to forget about balancing on the unicycle and focus on the game of hockey. He said at my young age my body could do amazing things and before I knew it, riding a unicycle would be second nature to playing unicycle hockey.

I am now motivated to combine my unicycle and hockey skills to see if I can play unicycle hockey competitively. I want to become a great unicycle hockey player and join the Berkshire, Massachusetts Unicycle Hockey Club. Continue reading

History of the Woodside One Wheelers

By Courtney (grade 7)

The Woodside One Wheelers started out with only three members in the first performance. It was at Williams Cone Elementary school and Marie was the first stilt walker, Tucker and Michael were the first jugglers. Michael and Tucker also did devil sticks. The Woodside One Wheelers have grown a lot since then. It’s amazing when you look back and think about how we started and where we are now.

Every year the Woodside One Wheelers have a community performance at Woodside Elementary school. It’s a lot of fun performing for your own community. It seems like every year the community performances get bigger and bigger! It started out with mostly parents and a couple people Mr. Pulsifer invited. But now a lot of other people that don’t even go to Woodside come to the show to see us perform. It’s a lot different now we have so many more kids getting excited and most of them at least a little nervous. But, Mr. P. is still as stressed as ever before performances.

We went to the Y.M.C.A a couple times. They liked it so much I guess they wanted us again! The Y.M.C.A was a great place to have a performance. We had plenty of space. Space has always been an issue for the Woodside One Wheelers. Either we don’t have enough space for the unicycles or the big circus balls or we have too much space (it has happened before at the halftime show, but more about that later)!

Until last year (2008 – 2009) we had one practice a week. Every Monday all of us would stay after school (or get off the bus for the middle schoolers) and go to the gym at Woodside for practice. Practice is kind of crazy especially when it gets closer to a performance. There are people everywhere. Just last year Mr. P. decided to let 3rd graders into the program (previously it had only been for 4th and 5th graders and any middle schooler). Then we had way too many people at practice. So Mr. P. split everybody into two groups. One group meets on Mondays and the other on Thursdays. All the unicyclists are in the Monday group so we can practice our routines together. I’m a unicyclist, so I have to go on Mondays.

We go to some of the other Elementary schools as well. We have been to Williams Cone School, the Elementary school in Turner, Washburn Elementary School, and of course, Woodside Elementary School. It’s a lot of fun watching the younger kids before, during, and after the performances. They look at our equipment with wonder before we start. During the performance they point and look at us with amazement. After most of them are usually talking to their friends excitedly.

For the past few years the Woodside One Wheeler’s have been in the Topsham/Brunswick Memorial Day Parade. One thing I learned at the 2008 parade was it hurts falling off a giraffe unicycle! We were circling during one of the parade stops and everyone was getting pretty close. I think I fell over one of the smaller unicyclists but if you ask pretty much anyone else in the Woodside One Wheelers they will tell you that I fell over a pebble. Which of course isn’t true! Anyway I had to get on my smaller unicycle and pedal as fast as I could to catch up to Mr. P. who was waiting with my giraffe up ahead. Getting up on a giraffe unicycle is hard enough with a wall to lean on. It’s even harder when all you have is the curb and a shoulder. But, I made it and the parade went on.

Even though I’ve been in the Woodside One Wheelers since the very beginning, it still surprises me when people come up and tell me how amazing what we do is. Yah, I ride a 5-foot unicycle, but to me and everybody else in WOW (Woodside One Wheelers) it’s normal. We ride every Monday (and sometimes Thursdays). When I get up on my unicycle I don’t even think about it. I just automatically know what to do. The Woodside One Wheelers have given me an opportunity to do something that not many people get to know how to do or even try. I love being in the Woodside One Wheelers and hopefully will be a part of this for many years to come.