CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- Family weekend at the University of Northern Iowa is a chance for parents to check out the campus, take in a game and maybe even meet some of their children's professors.
Adjunct mathematics professor Dean Franzen may have surprised some parents who met him Saturday, though.
He didn't tell them about the equations or formulas students were learning. There was no talk of calculus, trigonometry or statistics. Instead of a classroom, Franzen was on stage in Maucker Union juggling machetes, balancing on a unicycle and cracking jokes.
Franzen has been juggling for 26 years, about as long as he's been teaching.
"I didn't expect one of my professors to juggle," said freshman Austin Smith, who brought his mom and other family members to the show. "It's cool, though." He learned about the performance and Franzen's juggling abilities in class Thursday.
Franzen and 24-year-old Doug Sayers of Cedar Rapids, who has won four world championship juggling competitions, entertained the crowd for an hour tossing plastic clubs, large rings and balls into the air, as well as the machetes. They brought children in the audience onto the stage, asking one girl to toss balls to Franzen while on a unicycle and placing a boy between the two men as they juggled objects to each other.
Franzen stepped aside at points, allowing Sayers to showcase his polished moves. While Franzen balanced on a board perched on a section of PVC pipe, the audience asked him to include an under-the-leg move as he prepared to juggle.
"You really want to see underneath the leg? OK, here we go," said Franzen as he stepped off the board and handed the juggling clubs to Sayers.
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The pair frequently performs together. "We travel around the Midwest," said Franzen, doing shows at libraries, town festivals and school assemblies. Saturday's show was their first at parents weekend.
"It was amazing, it was awesome," Smith's mom, Darci Morgan, said after the show. She and her fiance came from Davenport to visit Smith for the weekend along with their five other children, two of whom ended up on stage with the jugglers. "I love the interaction that they allow the kids to be part of," said Morgan.
"I wouldn't have missed (the weekend) because this is Austin's first year," she noted. "When he says he's going to his calculus class, it's nice to see where that is. And I've got to check on his dorm room" in case the dirty clothes are piling up.
"We've been up here before," she admitted. "I'm a helicopter mom, I probably hover too much."
The weekend included volleyball and football games plus a number of other activities for families from a greenhouse tour to a robotics demonstration.
Matt Swanson of Boone was also at the juggling show with his son Philip, a sophomore, and his wife and their younger son, a high school senior. Along with checking out the College of Education, where Philip is earning a degree, the family met with friends from Ames who also have a child at UNI. Swanson said his other son is thinking about UNI, as well.
Morgan said her younger children were getting some ideas about going to college as their families visit UNI.
"My 10-year-old has already decided just by the dorm room alone 'I'm going to this college,'" she said.