“Who would like to be inside a bubble?” Sterling Johnson asked the crowd.
In front of him were over a dozen kids at the Douglas County Fair on Saturday afternoon. Just moments prior he had been dazzling the audience with hundreds of bubbles of his own creation.
With a quick cast of a fishing rod, fashioned with a net made of bamboo yarn, bubbles fill the area. Children squeal with delight as they chase after the bubbles, reaching up and jumping in an attempt to catch them before hitting the ground.
When Johnson asked for a volunteer to be engulfed inside a giant bubble, Pam Garner’s hand immediately shot up.
“It’s not gonna last really long, and she isn’t going to fly away,” he said to the children.
With a single cast, Johnson encased Garner inside a bubble for what seemed to be a fraction of a second.
“It was like being inside of a rainbow,” Garner said. “It was beautiful colors.”
Another volunteer was 3-year-old Oliver Lindsey. Oliver had a big grin on his face as his mother, Taylor Lindsey, snapped some quick photos with her phone.
“We were walking by and I saw it (the sign) and it said bubbles, and I was like, ‘Oh yes!” Taylor Lindsey said. “I think it’s probably going to be his favorite attraction.”
Johnson, of San Francisco, has had a fascination with bubbles ever since high school. He said one of his science projects involved bubbles.
“The science project wasn’t much, but I discovered that I could blow bubbles with my hands,” he said. “And I thought that was just as cool as it could get, and I still think so.”
For years Johnson worked as a lawyer, with most of his cases focusing on divorces or construction contract disputes.
“When I used to take cases in court, nobody smiled, everybody’s very serious,” Johnson said. “Half the people like you and half the people don’t like you, because that’s just how things are.”
Twenty years ago he decided that he had had enough and set out to blow bubbles professionally.
“I figured I had a limited time left and I’d rather be doing things I really enjoy rather than things that I don’t,” he said. “As a bubble guy, if I’m not getting 85, 90 percent smiles, I’m doing something wrong.”
Johnson has performed at county fairs all over California and Oregon, and internationally in places like Tokyo and Dubai. He’s also performed at a congressional picnic on the White House lawn during the George W. Bush administration.
Johnson refers to himself as a “bubblesmith,” a title of his own creation. He prefers it over the more commonly used term “bubble artist,” saying that the latter was less humble.
“Well he works some fine art here,” Garner said. “So I imagine he deserves that bubblesmith title.”