by Judy Kay, Aquarium of Niagara
Are you getting it yet? You know, that question from the kids that often pops up midway through summer and a few weeks before school begins.
It goes something like this: "There's nothing to do. What can I do?"
They've ridden their bikes, gone to the pool, went to camp and probably went on a family vacation. So now "I'm bored" gets thrown into the mix. But, there is a way to magically make that all go away, literally.
Take them to the Aquarium of Niagara. The Aquarium, which recently celebrated its 45th birthday, is more than sharks, sea lions and penguins. It's magic!
Every day through August (except Sundays and Aug. 6), magicians Rob and Carol Allen amaze and amuse children and their parents with two shows at 1:20 and 3:50 p.m. in the Community Room on the second level, between sea lion shows. Show times Aug. 14 are 11:20 a.m. and 1:20 p.m. Rob makes his wife disappear (in pieces) and makes doves and a duck appear out of thin air. He turns a volunteer from the audience into a milk pump, which is appropriate since the Western New York Dairy Farmers sponsor the Allens' shows. In fact, Rob Allen said: "They've sponsored us for 35 years; we are the longest running corporate-sponsored show in the world."
The Allens have made magic at the Aquarium from June through August for the last seven years. Included in regular admission, the shows are a pleasant surprise for those visitors who didn't expect to see another special event, especially after seeing the sea lions perform their amazing feats.
Nancy A. Chapin, executive director, said: "We here at the Aquarium have enjoyed our long partnership with the Allens for many reasons. They are consummate professionals and present a top-notch family show. It's also a free addition to an already educational and entertaining program provided by the Aquarium staff, our sea lions and other remarkable creatures. Area residents and visitors from all over the world fill the Community Room each day the magic show is scheduled."
"Every single audience is different here," said Allen. "You can tell by the reaction of all the different cultures. They don't respond the way we do. They often don't understand the humor," so the magician does more visual stuff they might better understand.
When asked what was the favorite part of their show, both Rob and Carol said, "The end." They were joking, of course. It's obvious the Allens love what they do. They're especially happy to be performing at the Aquarium because it's close to home. They don't miss the years traveling or doing shows at sea, they agree.
Before they opened at the Aquarium, the magic couple performed at the Buffalo Zoo for 15 summers, Martin's Fantasy Island and in the Festival Theater in the State Park. Magic has been a part of their lives since before they married in 1973. The Allens have plied their trade for more than 35 years in hotels and nightclubs all over the United States and Canada. They've even amazed travelers on exotic cruise vacations.
The Allens met at Crystal Beach in Ontario when his family spent a day at the amusement park and Carol came along with his sister. The Wheatfield residents still live on the upper Niagara River. Married for 37 years, they have two grown children: a son, Joe, 21, who works at the Buffalo Zoo, and a daughter, Carrie, 28, who with her husband, Randy, has two children, ages 3 and 9.
In 1976, the Allens found a corporate sponsor, the Western New York Dairy Farmers, that make it possible to bring their shows to various area venues, including schools, where they perform more than 100 shows each spring, free of charge.
Rob Allen also has presided over the Performing Magicians Association, a group of full-time performing magicians from around the world. He has written many articles on magic and magic's history and he has an extensive collection of magic memorabilia, dating from the 1800s to the present.
In addition to the "Experience the Mist-ical" magic show, Aquarium visitors this summer can also catch the daily sea lion demonstrations, penguins, sharks, octopus and outdoor harbor seal feedings.
The Allens will perform two evening shows Aug. 6 at the Niagara County Fairgrounds in Lockport. Their last Aquarium shows are at 1:20 and 3:50 p.m. Sept. 2. To contact the magicians, check their Web site at robandcarolallen.com.