From my perspective as a professional yo-yo man, it sure seems as if yo-yos are recession proof.  As the economy tanked almost everyone suffered, and I am no exception. However, for the last two years I have seen an interesting trend in my business. While it has gotten increasingly difficult to book shows, when I can actually get my foot in the door and get in front of an audience, they are buying yo-yos like crazy.


I make my living as an entertainer.  In general the way it works is that people hire me to come and perform my show at an event. I get hired for a wide variety of gatherings: it could be anything from a local library show, a school, a company picnic or holiday party to an international festival in Shanghai China or a trade show in Australia.  I have been around the world with a yo-yo in my pocket, but I mostly work in the Midwest of the United States.  While my main product is my show, I always have yo-yos for sale afterward if I can.  It’s a nice way to let people take a piece of the show home with them, enjoy a part of our national cultural heritage, and have fun with a new toy. For me of course, yo-yo sales allow me to have a little extra money in my pocket, and until the recession hit, “little” was usually the operative word.


So why are yo-yos selling so well now? I think that there are several reasons:

  • Yo-yos are cheap.  You can get a lot of fun out of a $5 or $10 yo-yo, and it’s a lot easier on a strained budget to spend even $50 on a really nice yo-yo than to drop hundreds of dollars on a new videogame system.
  • Yo-yos are fun. You get an immediate shot of fun injected directly into your brain.
  • Yo-yos are easy. Almost anyone can learn a few cool tricks with only minimal instruction, and if you have access to a professional or the internet, you can learn even more.
  • Exercise. While yo-yoing is nothing like doing the decathlon, it is physical activity, and a lot of people are looking for any way to keep kids (or adults for that matter) active.
  • Boost hand-eye coordination. There is no doubt that yo-yos are good for this.
  • Yo-yos are social. Especially in a school environment, yo-yos lead to more social interaction. One person knows how to do a specific trick, so other people come to them for pointers. I had one Principal who was thrilled with the massive inter-grade socialization that happened at her school after I had performed and taught workshops there.
  • People are simplifying. Yo-yos are a classic part of American culture, and remind us of simpler times. They let you feel like you are getting back to basics, and taking part in our traditional culture.

I should point out that I am certainly not getting rich off yo-yo sales, especially since getting in the door to do a show in the first place is still difficult, but yo-yo sales have helped me get through this slow economy. I think it’s fascinating how our behavior changes in hard times. I’ve always known that yo-yos were incredibly cool, and as a professional yo-yo man it’s extremely gratifying that when times get tough, and we as a nation look for entertainment, yo-yos are the comfort food of the toy world.



Mark Hayward is a full-time professional yo-yo man, and he also runs where you can buy your own yo-yo, and learn how to use it. For  more on Mark’s show, and booking information check out



I launched a sale today at  It runs until the end of April and involves a whole new set of yo-yos that haven’t been offered for sale on the site before.  They are all priced below retail (kind of the definition of a sale really), but then you ALSO get 1/2 price shipping if you order one of the sale items.  I know!  It’s so exciting I’m about to pop.  No one likes paying for shipping though, so it’s actually pretty cool.


Check out all the hot yo-yo action at the April Yo-yo Madness headquarters.

Yes, you read it correctly.  Not only is there a U.S. Pizza Team, but they have a National Pizza Spinning Contest, AND I was asked to be a judge.  I know what you’re thinking.  All those years of judging yo-yo and juggling contests turned out not to be a waste of time after all.  They were actually the necessary training that brought me to this moment.


The trials for the US Pizza Team have several different divisions: Largest Dough Stretch, Fastest Pizza Maker (dough only, but it’s 5 of them), Box Folding, Culinary (making an entire pie, judged on taste etc.), and the big event, Acrobatic Freestyle.  I was invited to judge the Acrobatic Freestyle.  It was really cool.  There were 4 competitors, each from a different pizza shop in a different part of the country.  Competition was serious, but friendly.  I was a little worried about my preparedness, so I watched a bunch of videos online to get an idea of what were common tricks, and what were the tough ones.  The winner was Giorgio Giove from Staten Island NY.  He rocked it out.  He had an awesome accent.  For his trouble he won a trip to Italy to compete in the World Pizza Spinning Contest.  Yow.

The winners of the Acrobatic Freestyle Competition.  Giorgio is the one on the right with the big smile.


The contest took place inside the Wisconsin restaurant association trade show, and it can often be hard to find food you want to eat at trade shows.  There’s usually something that you don’t want to eat that you could buy for $25, but something you actually want is another story.  One of the best parts about being at the pizza contest is that there was a full pizza kitchen right there, so we had hot fresh pizza at our fingertips.  I was really sad that I couldn’t stay for the following day when they were doing the culinary contest.  I have always wanted to eat pizza contest pizza… seriously… ever since I heard that it existed I have wanted to eat some.  Major bummer that I had to miss it, but I had to get back to PA for some other business.  Maybe next time.

Chris Green, U.S. Pizza Team Trainer, and his likeness on a pizza box.

My certificate of appreciation, gift box full of U.S. Pizza Team loot, and real live contest pizza dough.

Cake Balls are pretty labor intensive, but they look great and are delicious too. I think that this is a desert that is all about the decorating. If you just want something yummy, quick, and easy, you should eat frosting with a spoon. If you want to do some fun decorating, Cake Balls/ Cake Pops are the way to go.  You can learn how to do it yourself with the book:  Cake Pops from Amazon or your favorite book seller.

I just learned that March 5-6 will be the last Juggle This juggling festival to be held at Pratt. The convention is getting the boot. It’s very sad. Come join the fun for the last one. I’ll be there.

The Ultimate Battletop Championship is a contest that Alan Gray, Eric Wolff and I designed to see if upper lever top-spinners could break each other’s tops.  So far no one has managed it, but we’ve realized that we would need crappier tops.  In order to get the best players to participate I decided that we needed an awesome trophy.  So for each contest I make a mechanical trophy where one top breaks another top, and the winner gets to keep it forever.  Here is the trophy for this year’s contest at the MadFest Juggling Festival in Madison WI.

First the video:

Then the photos:

Trophy for the 2011 Ultimate Battletop Championship: Wisconsin by markhayward534, on Flickr

Trophy for the 2011 Ultimate Battletop Championship: Wisconsin by markhayward534, on Flickr

Trophy for the 2011 Ultimate Battletop Championship: Wisconsin by markhayward534, on Flickr

Trophy for the 2011 Ultimate Battletop Championship: Wisconsin by markhayward534, on Flickr

I have the honor of being asked to be a part of the Holiday Vaudeville Show at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC this month.  The show is two nights, Dec 26th and 27th at 6:00pm, and you can watch it live on the web here:

I posted this on facebook a while ago, but I wanted to be sure I could find it again easily if I needed to.  Modified vans that range from the slightly odd to the totally bizarre.  I love them.

I have reached a new plateau in my semi-fame. This is even better than when a kid put my photo on his birthday cake.  I got a facebook message and a photo text telling me about it last night.  My buddies Takeshi, Jack Ringca, and Drew Tetz are on the road right now with the Duncan Heritage Tour and yesterday a kid showed up to their demo in Brookfield WI in his Halloween costume, dressed as me.  Fake glasses, cool-guy shirt, hat, and a markered-in soul-patch beard to boot.  Just to make sure everyone knew who he was, he was wearing my current trading card like a name tag.  Awesome.  I am so honored.

He saw me at the Wisconsin State Fair this summer, and has gotten really into yo-yos lately.  Apparently I gave him a trading card at the fair.  Here is the photo he was working from:

The back of my new trading card:

and here is the front:

Both of these videos are a collaboration between me and Takeshi Kamisato.  I was the idea man, camera man, and robot wrangler, plus I did some initial editing.  Takeshi came in with his powerful editing skills and made them good.

No!  Don’t Do It! (Robot Chronicles part 2)


Searching for Something (Robot Chronicles part 3)

There is still one more part to come.  With a little luck, I’ll finish it in the next few days.

Why robots?  Aside from the fact that robots are AWESOME, a while back I had the burning desire to make something.  I had only a limited workshop and no big plan , but when I found cheap wind-up robots I knew I was onto something.  I bought a whole bunch of them, and started playing around.  I posted the first video a little over a year ago, then sent off a small sculpture to a show made up of art made by yo-yo players at the Steve Brown Gallery.  I’ve had the footage for these two videos for a while, but just got back to them.

Eye Robot.  Get it?  When he walks, the yo-yo bounces.

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