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Fire and ice at the fair: Performer goes from law school to juggler

Paz juggles flaming hockey sticks at the Greater Grand Forks Fair. He is the only performer who does this trick. (Photo by Wade Rupard/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 9
Paz juggles flaming hockey sticks at the Greater Grand Forks Fair. He is the only performer who does this trick. (Photo by Wade Rupard/Grand Forks Herald)3 / 9
Paz juggles flaming hockey sticks at the Greater Grand Forks Fair. He is the only performer who does this trick. (Photo by Wade Rupard/Grand Forks Herald)4 / 9
A crowd reacts to Paz as he juggles flaming hockey sticks at the Greater Grand Forks Fair. (Photo by Wade Rupard/Grand Forks Herald)5 / 9
Brianna Crow, left, and Aspen Wilson enjoy the view from the top of the ferris wheel at the Grand Forks Fairgrounds in Grand Forks, ND on Thursday, June 25, 2015. (Grand Forks Herald/ Joshua Komer)6 / 9
From left, Isaac Leighton, Jordan Anderson, and Jenna Adair, enjoy a nauseating ride at the Grand Forks Fairgrounds in Grand Forks, ND on Thursday, June 25, 2015. (Grand Forks Herald/ Joshua Komer)7 / 9
Korban Verhoeven looks ahead on an age appropriate car ride at the Grand Forks Fairgrounds in Grand Forks, ND on Thursday, June 25, 2015. (Grand Forks Herald/ Joshua Komer)8 / 9
People wait in line to get on the ferris wheel at the Grand Forks Fairgrounds in Grand Forks, ND on Thursday, June 25, 2015. (Grand Forks Herald/ Joshua Komer)9 / 9

It was at some point in law school the performer simply known as Paz knew he was in the wrong field.

Though he was doing well in his classes and was there on an academic scholarship, Paz dreamed of doing something else.

So Paz turned his sights on circus performance.

"I missed being active with my body, and at the right moment in my life, I got introduced to circus," he said. "I knew I was a workaholic and law wasn't for me, but the circus is."

Paz is an award-winning acrobat who puts on the The Hockey Circus Show, currently running at the Greater Grand Forks Fair, which runs until June 28.

His show, which he described as "three periods of arena-rockin' fun," is the only one in the world that features hockey stick juggling — and his are on fire.

Dressed in a yellow jersey, blue helmet and ice skates, Paz juggles hockey pucks while bantering with the audience, ending the show by tossing the inflamed sticks.

"It just seemed like a natural thing to do to combine my love of circus with my love of sports," he said.

Paz has now been a performer for 20 years. He originally thought up the idea when he saw there were tribute shows for other sports, such as basketball and soccer, but not hockey.

A Toronto-native and lifelong hockey fan, Paz said he would attend his law school classes in a hockey jersey and shorts, not fitting in with the rest of his classmates. Even after finishing his schoolwork, Paz said he spent hours each night playing hockey.

"I was definitely a fish out of water," he said.

Following a professional tennis career, Paz saw there was a market for a hockey circus show, so he created one.

Paz said he tries to incorporate both acrobatics and hockey into his show to try to create an atmosphere similar to what an audience would find at a hockey arena, complete with a replica of the Stanley Cup with all of the places he's performed carved into the trophy.

"We do what you do at a game," he said. "We scream, we yell, we cheer, we root for people, we do the wave."

Paz is also part of the Feets of Fire show, an award-winning acrobatic show with his partner and girlfriend. He ends that show by setting his partner's feet on fire, something nobody else does.

"I think the key is to do something nobody else is doing," he said. "There's always a market for new and creative ideas."

His shows, he said, were the first time in his life he could combine athletics, his creative side and his academic side.

Paz said he's not the only one who comes from an academic background who has transitioned into being a fair performer. He knows other former law students, an MIT grad, an astrophysicist and a nuclear physicist who have gone on to do something similar to what he is doing now.

"I think at a certain level, you've done what you need to do and then you realize you're in love with something else."

Wade Rupard

Wade Rupard is a reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. Rupard is a 2014 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and is originally from Normal, Ill. 

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