Reid Belstock had achieved a special brand of popularity at Overland High School by the time he graduated in 1991.
Everyone at the school seemed to know who Belstock was, even though many wouldn't have been able to identify him by name. Instead, he had earned a simple and pervasive nickname, one known to students and administrators alike. It was a label that would persist long after graduation, a title that would come to sum up professional path that would bring him to stages across the world.
"It's very common for people who juggle in high school like myself to be referred to as 'the juggle guy,'" Belstock said. "I don't think a lot of people knew my name, but a lot of people knew that I was the 'juggle guy.'"
Nearly 25 years after graduating from the Cherry Creek School District, people still know Belstock by that name. He's performed for audiences across the world as an expert juggler, unicyclist and professional circus clown. He's performed on cruise ships, in Disney theme parks and on local Colorado stages. He's won titles at international juggling competitions and, along with his stage partner Warren Hammond, carved out a reputation as one of the most innovative and engaging local performers.
All of those achievements have roots in the skills Belstock first learned as a high school student at Overland in Aurora. A shy kid with a self-professed learning disability, Belstock found direction and purpose in the performing arts. He also found encouragement at the school, thanks to teachers and advisors who worked to encourage his skills. The school's guidance counselor suggested that Belstock apply to a prestigious clown college based in Florida; the Overland activities director encouraged his efforts to launch a juggling club at the school. Such work made a significant difference.
"The Overland staff was always so kind and positive to me. They always wanted to cheer me on and say, 'Good job,'" Belstock said. "My guidance counselor, the activities director, all of the teachers that I had – they were always pushing me to help me progress."
Belstock has worked hard to return the favor after a career that's spanned continents. Between local performances and touring the world on cruise ships, he's made education a priority, teaching juggling classes at middle schools in the Cherry Creek School District and beyond.
Those classes are meant to offer the kind of inspiration that started Belstock on his path at the age of 16, after he attended a conference in Denver that featured more than 700 jugglers. Watching all of those artists sparked a passion in Belstock. He started spending hours working up his skill set, starting with keeping two balls or clubs before moving on to three. At the same time, he honed skills that would serve as a complement to the art of juggling, coming to school on a unicycle and polishing the basic skill of making people laugh.
All of that work paid off in other unexpected areas.
"By progressing in juggling, my mind became sharper," Belstock recalled. "I had a very hard time in school academically, but juggling was a real turning point. Once my mind became accustomed to learning something and accomplishing a goal, that began to translate into my schoolwork. My grades improved. Thank goodness."
Other rewards from all the hard work came quickly. At the age of 16, Belstock earned a spot as a performer at the old Elitch Gardens amusement park in west Denver, working summers as a mobile performer who strolled along the historic grounds and engaged audiences with juggling routines and comedy. He went on to found a juggling club at Overland, a show of engagement that earned him a special letter of school spirit upon graduation in 1991.
Those roots would hint at a more impressive stage career to come. After receiving a pamphlet from his high school guidance counselor, Belstock went on to attend the prestigious and selective Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College based in Venice, Fla., an experience he likens to "living in a Dr. Seuss book." He was one of 32 applicants selected out of thousands.
From there, Belstock went on to high-profile gigs at Disneyworld in Florida and the MGM Grand Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas. He's worked on cruise ships that toured the world, and performed in theme parks in Japan, the country where he met his wife.
But Belstock still prefers to keep his life based squarely in Aurora, not far from Overland High School. His main focus as a performer these days is the Smirk Show, a paired juggling and stage act he performs with his partner, Warren Hammond. Featuring high-energy juggling and comedy routines, the show features Belstock as the clown character he's taken decades to craft, a goofy and nerdy clown who sports zoot suits and juggles bowling balls while riding a unicycle.
It's an on-stage persona that's left an impression with thousands of audience members, many of whom still remember Belstock as "the juggling guy." That much hasn't changed since high school.