September 17, 2009 at 7:48 a.m.

Performer gets to stay close to home for upcoming arts gig

Performer gets to stay close to home for upcoming arts gig
Performer gets to stay close to home for upcoming arts gig

Norm Barnhart should feel right at home performing next weekend at the hugely anticipated Franconia Sculpture Park Arts & Artists Celebration. Besides the fact that he will literally be close to where he lives-- this one big day of music, meditation, arts and dance brings people together through good vibrations, and that's exactly what Barnhart does to earn a living.

Barnhart, who moved to the Lindstrom area about nine years ago, is a comedic magician. He's a fun, motivational speaker who also does magic. He's a character who is hard to pin down. Portraying his slick-haired "Normondo" he was chosen by his peers in 2007 as the "Funniest Magician" at a Las Vegas convention.

The Franconia Township sculpture garden is just one of many places across the United States where Barnhart's booked. It's one of his favorites, which is clear when he exclaims about the variety and uniqueness of the talent you can encounter. One act in particular last year really grabbed his attention and he hopes it's scheduled to appear again.

Barnhart enjoys watching any art form as much as he enjoys creating and doing his own. He soaked-up bits when he was little; watching early kids' T.V. shows and comedy greats like Laurel & Hardy. He was fortunate enough to get hired as a magician, while still in high school, spending his summer at the old Brainerd, Minnesota Paul Bunyan Land. Learning from entertainers there he built a performance foundation that hasn't failed him. St. Cloud magician Russ Charles was a "mentor" he said.

Now, Barnhart carries on that tradition by sharing his knowledge, in video trainings, DVDs and books he's written. They are available on amazon.com and at Target websites. He also instructs up-and-coming performers in person. He contributed a column to Laughmakers Magazine for 12 years.

"It's neat how something you liked to do, from back when you were a little kid, actually turns out later to be a way you earn a living," Barnhart said by phone. "I am very fortunate." He wrote in a website blog that he consciously realized he could entertain the family when he was 4 or 5 years old. He loved how his father's laugh could "shake the roof."

Barnhart performs at various times during the Franconia Sculpture Park celebration Sept. 26. He'll move among the crowd and do what he's been doing for 28 years-- magic tricks anchored by "clean comedy" where nobody is put down or embarrassed, spreading his message that everything is interconnected and magic can happen.

The sculpture park is located at the southwest corner of Hwys. 95 and 97, south of Taylors Falls. It is open for the public to enjoy outdoor sculpture viewing all the time, but a couple events held there during the year attract big music talent and special performers. The festival Sept. 26 is one of these. Admission is free. It's dubbed "hip family fun." If you don't consider yourself hip before you go, you will after.

Highlights of the Franconia Sculpture Park celebration include:

~ The March performs at 2 p.m. A "Dylan-esque" rock duo.

~ The Push, with experimental electronic music, at 3:30 p.m.

~ Black Blondie, a Minneapolis foursome, at 4:15 p.m.

~ Thea Ennen, a recipient of a Minnesota Music Award for folk music, plays at 5:45 p.m.

~ Sycamore Smith, guitarist, who has released four EPs since 2005. He plays at 7:15 p.m.

Expect local food vendors, dancers and more. The earthen amphitheatre is also being dedicated.


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