The fifth annual domino toppling show at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center was the last one I participated in, and the first without my brother Steve. It takes three days to drive 300 miles, set up our dominoes, clean up, and return home. After five years, he couldn't take time away from work to make the trip.
The reason I was able to go is because I had no full-time employment throughout the entirety of our Brattleboro events. I had been a graphic designer from 1999 to 2007, and thought I could continue in that line of work. Four years passed, and I still hadn't found a job. This was a very depressing period of my life, and doing this show without my brother certainly wasn't helping.
Things fell apart even further once I arrived. The museum installed a new wall, which shrunk the amount of space the domino course could take up. My carefully diagrammed floor plan had to be altered. Also, I foolishly decided to stress test a couple of K'Nex towers. I pushed down on them to simulate the weight they would carry, and they broke into pieces that knocked down hundreds of dominoes I had already set up. To top it off, more dominoes were toppled prematurely while the barricades were being installed.
Fortunately, I wasn't alone after all. Steve may not have been there, but Shane came back and did a fantasic job once again. I'm not sure I could have kept my cool if he wasn't with me.
It's Better Than Nothing
Despite all the setbacks, I did set up some stuff, like this... thing. It's the logo for Lesser Known Savages, a sketch comedy group Steve was a part of. Also, a big tennis ball rolls down a ramp and around a curve.
Here are those towers that scattered everywhere. The dominoes climb up, triggering a lever on each level. The catapult is back, and this time it's filled with confetti. There are still bits of paper mixed in with our dominoes.
...and the Future
As I said, this was the last Brattleboro show I took part in. I gave up on my dream of being a graphic designer and took a job stocking groceries. Steve had his own responsibilities, and neither of us could participate anymore.
Thankfully, it wasn't the end of the event. Shane led the sixth installment, and brought along a new generation of domino topplers to help him. The cast has changed over the years, but the show has gone on. As I write this in 2023, the 16th Annual Domino Toppling Extravaganza is about to take place.
I finally returned to the musuem in 2021 to be a spectator for a change. I also wanted to meet the young artists who still have healthy knees, backs, and butts. I saw Shane again for the first time in nearly a decade. He looked a lot different that I remembered him. I also met Nathan, who competed on Domino Masters.
Finally, I got to meet Lily Hevesh, who may be the most successful domino toppler of all time. She has multiple film and TV credits, her own line of products, a documentary, and millions of subscribers to her YouTube channel. Her dad took this picture of us along with BMAC director Danny Lichtenfeld:
There was one more reason I went there. I wanted to thank the new crew for keeping the show going. They thanked me for starting the event along with Steve, and even described us as "legends". I don't know about that, but it did get me thinking. I grew up watching Robert Speca topple dominoes on the Late Show with David Letterman. I guess I would consider him to be a legend. He was a pioneer who inspired others, like me, to build our own domino creations. Had I done the same thing without even realizing it?
Also, this may require more research, but I believe the Brattleboro Museum Domino Toppling Extravaganza may be the longest continuously running annual domino show in America, and possibly the world. Whether that's enough to bestow legendary status upon the event's originators is not for me to decide.
That's the end of my Brattleboro experiences. I'll wrap up with some advice for the young domino topplers out there, because that's what us old folks do. If you'd like to participate in the event, or want to put on your own show, just ask! Reach out to local museums or other venues with flat floors, show them your work, and maybe they'll be interested. If I can do it, so can you.