Entertainment abounds at Summerfest

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— Rob Walker strolled onto the grass of the Hayden Town Park with a straightjacket in his hands. He lifted it and smiled.

"It was a graduation present from my mom," he said. He slipped it on like a backward suit jacket and was locked in.

A few minutes later, he was tied tight by a line of metal buckles and arm straps designed to keep an angry and deranged person under control.

Kids were watching from behind the picnic tables as Walker bent forward and strained to pull himself free.

"I usually do this to 'Flight of the Bumblebee' so it's more dramatic," he said.

It happened quickly. Suddenly, his arms were out of the sleeves and he pulled the jacket up over his head.

He threw it to the ground and smiled again.

Then he looked down.

"I can be really shy when I first meet someone," he admitted.

Magic helps him break the ice. Doing tricks introduced him to most of his friends at University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, where he studies theatre.

Magic will also help him reconnect with his hometown as he performs at the first-ever Hayden Valley Summerfest at Hayden Town Park from 10 a.m. until dark July 6.

Walker designed his act in the 1920s vaudeville tradition.

"I prefer classic-style entertainment," he said. "At this point, everything has been done so the old is becoming fresh again."

He mimes like Charlie Chaplin and also juggles, but magic is his passion.

When he was 14, growing up in Hayden, he checked out all the books in the Hayden library on magic and illusion.

"The everyday routine of life is boring," he said. "I spent 18 years of my life in Hayden. I was watching people on television pounding nails into their face and swallowing razor blades. I didn't see anyone doing that around here. So I decided to do it myself."

Walker believes everyone should know at least one magic trick.

"Magic isn't an everyday occurrence," he said. "When you see magic someone doing something extraordinary you realize that there is more out there."

Walker will do an initial show on stage and then mingle and do tricks for the audience.

At Summerfest, the park will be full with the work of local artists, among them Dal Leck.

Leck will be coming out of retirement as a blacksmith for Summerfest.

The last artwork he did for public sale was six years ago, when a man from New York saw his work at the Artisans Market in Steamboat Springs.

The man flew Leck to his home on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to create a set of French doors. The home was a turn-of-the-century brownstone.

The renovation involved a marble mason from Italy and crown moldings done by an artisan from England.

"It was an honor to be surrounded by craftsmen like that," Leck said.

Since then, Leck has been focused on other aspects of his life. He fires his forge these days for fun and to make gifts for friends.

Leck is a firefighter at Hayden Valley Regional Airport and a volunteer firefighter in Hayden.

In a garage on the corner of Washington and Chestnut, Leck stands in front of a fire he doesn't have to fight.

He feeds it with shovel after shovel of coal.

He lays a rod of steel into the fire until it glows red.

The metal bends like clay as he presses it to the anvil head and pounds it with a hammer.

The ringing of metal against metal echoes against the cinder-block walls of his shop. As he shapes the metal with force and fire, Leck draws from the knowledge of centuries, passed down until it reached his great-grandfather, his grandfather and finally himself.

When he was 6, his grandfather let him hammer on the anvil and make small welds.

"He was really patient with me," Leck said.

"People say I am a lot like him, but it would be hard to walk in his footsteps."

Leck grew up all over the world but knew Colorado through his grandfather, who lived in Denver and had cabins in Meeker.

After a childhood in Germany, Japan and South and North Dakota, Leck returned to Colorado when it was time to make a life for himself.

It was while working at the Craig Power Plant, at age 30, that he met blacksmith Arnie Miller, who reintroduced him to the art of metalwork.

"I could make scrolls at the time, but he showed me so much more," Leck said.

"Now he knows more than I do," Miller said.

"I like doing things the old way," Leck said. "It's a little more fun and has a little different texture to it."

With one blow, he breaks glowing steel into two pieces. One side falls to the floor. For a moment, it seems as alive as a snake. It cools and again becomes lifeless and immobile.

His work is as thick and simple as the dinner bells and barbecue sets he is making for Summerfest or as intricate as the Damascus steel that has been featured on the cover of knife magazines and mentioned in books.

Damascus steel is made of 384 layers of steel forged together. It usually sells for $100 an inch.

The art Leck will sell at Summerfest is more within the average person's budget.

Leck and Walker will be joined by several other area artists, an antique car show and a concert featuring Greg Scott & The Smokehouse Band, Blue Sage Shoes, Three Wire, Blue Harvest and Down Home Country.

Admission is free. For more information, call Lindsay Heer at 276-3741.

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