Where did the rabbit go? Fun Fest magic show amazes and inspires

Valerie Lick • Jul 17, 2018 at 7:00 PM

KINGSPORT — “Once in a lifetime, you find a great entertainer,” a voice boomed in the V.O. Dobbins Community Center on Tuesday, causing rows upon rows of waiting kids and parents to fall silent. “We did not find that entertainer, but we did find one who won’t bore you,” the voice continued.

Award-winning illusionist Joseph Young did more than avoid boring his audience. With tricks involving props from Rubik’s Cubes to rabbits to fruit, the hour-long magic comedy show had kids and parents clapping and laughing.

The show was free, but one audience member who loaned a $20 bill to Young probably thought his cash was lost forever. With two young volunteers and a miniature washing machine, the illusionist showed the audience a shredded bill. “Ta-da!” Young said, sheepishly pouring the shredded paper into a cup. Luckily for the generous audience member, the shredded bill vanished — only to reappear whole inside a kiwi fruit.

Every year, the Kingsport Public Library organizes a series of events and shows that encourage kids to keep reading all summer. During Fun Fest, they “take the show on the road” and organize a magic show for Kid Central, the three-day Fun Fest event that ends on Wednesday.

Casey Applebaum, a Youth Services librarian, has taken the lead role in organizing the show for five years now.

“We get to reach out to members of the community who don’t often come to the library,” Applebaum said.

Kid-friendly entertainment like Young’s magic show helps promote the library, keeping Kingsport’s kids reading and learning even while school is out.

Young has a passion for magic tricks that began at age 6, when he was given a magic kit and picked up the hobby.

“I stopped doing it when I was about 13,” Young said after the show. “I picked it up again senior year of college, just doing card tricks with friends.”

After rediscovering his gift for showmanship, Young started performing professionally. The show exploded, receiving awards and attention across the country.

More than two decades later, Young is still performing from Las Vegas to New York City. As a native of Big Stone Gap, however, his favorite venues are local.

“I wish I could do more in the Tri-Cities,” he said.

Wherever he goes, Young’s magic always comes with a message. He ends all of his kids’ shows by encouraging his audience to believe in themselves.

“The real magic isn’t what’s performed onstage. It’s what’s in your hearts,” he said.