Monday, June 30, 2008

Working Toward College, a True Juggling Act

Published: June 15, 2008

KEY WEST, Fla. — Some teenagers flip burgers as a summer job. Others mow lawns. Reid Fierheller-Conklin juggles fire by the water at sunset, competing for crowds with a tightrope-walking dog, a sword-swallower, acrobats and Catman (don’t ask).

He has been performing here since he was 12, and at 16, with a voice still cracking and an A average in high school, Reid has put together a show that earns him more in 20 minutes than many teenagers make in a day. “A crowd draws a crowd, and if you’re entertaining, the crowd will stay,” he said. “And if you’re really good, you can actually convince the crowd to pay you.”

Key West over the years has nurtured all kinds of creativity, including public turtle races and Ernest Hemingway’s novels. But in an island habitat now dominated by tourists and aging hippies, Reid has become a sign of Key West’s transformation from a freewheeling party mecca to a clean-cut family getaway.

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