The first thing “Matthew the Magician,” did before coming to Great Bend was check the weather forecast.
Matthew Gurley’s magical powers unfortunately don’t control the weather and two years he endured a tornado warning during the 2010 Great Bend Renaissance Festival.
This time, Saturday’s cool and calm weather agreed with Gurley’s power of illusion during the June Jaunt. He enjoys his hobby of practicing magic when he’s away from his full-time job in Bonner Springs as an auto parts dealer for Mitsubishi.
“I like to hear the audience enjoying themselves and that’s helps me because we really work together,” he said. “The more they are enjoying themselves, the more I enjoy performing. I enjoy doing a family-friendly show when you can see the children smiling.”
Matthew the Magician entertained crowds at Jack Kilby Square with sword swallowing, walking on broken glass and one of his favorites — extricating himself from a straightjacket.
He regularly escapes from a straitjacket while suspended upside down, 12 feet above a stage as a finale to his show.
“I like to do tricks that people don’t see very often,” he said. “It’s not every day you get to see someone walk on glass or get out a straightjacket.”
Gurley describes himself as a quiet person who has learned to develop his stage presence. He said he has learned to portray his character.
He spends most of his free time learning, practicing and perfecting his stage performance. In high school he was introduced to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, and fell in love with the concept of living historical theater. When he entertains at Renaissance Festivals, he’s able to combine his two favorite hobbies.
Gurley said he got a big break when Dr. Dumpe, aka Rod Sipe, asked to tutor him after seeing him perform at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival.
“Dr. Dumpe taught me what he knew about magic. A lot of magic is passed on, just like how I got my straightjacket,” he said. “I’m proud to be part of the magical tradition of escape artists that started with Harry Houdini.”
Gurley’s wife, Dani, and their daughter Claire, 11, accompany him on his magical trips. They will return the last weekend in June for the Great Bend Renaissance Festival. Claire said she’s looking forward to walking on stilts that will make her 9-foot tall.
The Great Bend show was part of June Jaunt that showcased towns along K-96 Friday through Sunday. The theme is “Get your fix on K-96.”
Great Bend focused on art with more than 20 artists and artisans displaying their creations and offering demonstrations. This includes the decorative bird houses outside many businesses.
June Jaunt in Great Bend started Friday with a Birdhouse Art Tour and Chalk Art. June Jam in the Zoo Family Swim Night.
Sunday’s feature event is The History Writ Large Exhibit with murals by Pat Potucek. The reception will feature music will light snacks. 1-4 p.m. at Shafer Art Gallery at Barton Community College.
Other Sunday events in Great Bend are the Birdhouse Art Tour, 3007 10th Street; Hap Dumont Baseball, Great bend Sports Complex; GPS Tours, 2920 10th Street; Wood Art Display, Waters True Value; Straw Bale Buildings, 13 miles west on U.S. 56 and 10th Street; and a Kansas Wetlands Education Center Scavenger Hunt from 1 to 5 p.m.
The towns included in the weekend-long 176-mile trek are Tribune, Leoti, Scott City, Dighton, Ness City, Rush Center, Great Bend and Ellinwood.
The idea for the jaunt is a Kansas one, the brain child of Katie Eisenhour of the Scott City Chamber of Commerce. Geocaching seemed to be the perfect game to encourage travelers to hit all eight communities over the weekend. Organizers planned to pay $500 to a traveler who completed their geocache card correctly.