When it comes to choosing a career, there likely aren’t many people who would choose street performing over a more stable, good-paying job as an engineer. But that’s not the case for Mike Wood, who is set to perform his cabbage-catching show at the upcoming Edmonton International Street Performers Festival.
Wood, who learned to juggle at a young age, realized he wanted to be a street performer when he was 14 and on a school trip in London, England. On a day off from school activities, he and a friend spent the entire day watching street performers at London’s Covent Garden.
In the early 90s, the Ontario native started working as a professional street performer, and used his earnings to pay his way through engineering school. But even when he started working as an engineer, Wood always felt torn.
“I used to take all my holidays from my engineering job to street perform,” he said. “Every summer I would street perform. I booked these whole four-month summer tours.”
Last year, while working as a mining engineer in London, he made a decision. It was time to quit engineering and pursue street performing full time.
“Unless you’re learning all the time it’s not as exciting of a job as you might hope,” Wood said.
“I decided I’m really sick of sitting in front of a computer having my brain milked to make other people wealthy.”
Fast forward one year and Wood now makes a living by catching cabbage on his head. How, you ask? Well, the performer had a catapult from a juggling show he used to perform. And when you put it together with his jovial sense of humour, a motorcycle helmet covered in spikes and a head of cabbage, you’ve got yourself a show.
“My sister and I went and bought a whole bunch of produce and determined which thing flew the best and the answer was cabbage,” he explained of how the show came to fruition.
But you can’t use just any type of cabbage.
“My preference is for a savoy cabbage because they’re leafy and they look all cartoonishly cabbagey. Red cabbage is way too dense so it doesn’t fly as satisfyingly. And green cabbage is just green cabbage.”
Wood is just one of dozens of street performers who will put on shows at Churchill Square from July 8 to 17. With more than 1,500 outdoor shows, the festival’s artistic producer said it’s a great chance for people to come and play.
“You drop your schedules, you come and you just take in all the acts… and just have a great time in Edmonton,” Shelley Switzer said.
“We’re not only watching the show, we’re building community,” she added. “Everybody is playing together. Someone in a business suit is together with someone who may be homeless and enjoying the show together.”
WATCH: The Edmonton International Street Performers Festivals gets underway this weekend in Churchill Square. Mike Wood, who made a career change from mine engineering, performs his “Catapulted Cabbage Catch” show at the festival launch.
Wood said he’s had his eye on performing in the Edmonton festival since he was a teen. And while he’s performed here a couple of times, it’s always exciting to come back and do a job he loves.
“The Edmonton festival is one of the best ones in the world and so when I first learned of this kind of festival I was applying for it,” he said. “I knew way back then that this was a festival you wanted to have on your resume.”
And the best part about the festival for Wood? The people.
“It’s nice to come to festivals and see basically old friends that you really only get to see twice a decade.”
This year’s festival will also include nightly outdoor troupe de jour group shows. For more information about the event, visit Global News’ 2016 summer festival page.
Watch below: It’s just a few short days until Churchill Square is bustling with everything related to the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival