COLUMBUS — Rows of chairs were lined up inside the children's room at Columbus Public Library, waiting to be filled by those ready to watch a magician mystify the city once again.
Shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday, Jeff Quinn rolled in to start setting up for his show. As he was preparing tables and sparkling garments used to hide his tricks, children made their way into the room to watch him.
Quinn opened the summer reading program with a show that coincided with the theme “Build a Better World." He returned Thursday to close out the summer fun by teaching eager readers about Nebraska.
“This year Nebraska turns 150 years old,” Quinn told the crowd. “That anniversary is called the sesquicentennial, which is not an easy word to say.”
A Nebraska native, Quinn incorporated the special anniversary into his show by performing magic tricks that also educated children about the state's history.
“Who can tell me what the state fossil is?” Quinn asked.
After several failed guesses, the magician interjected.
“The woolly mammoth is the Nebraska state fossil,” he said. “It is found in 90 of the 93 counties in the state and was originally found by a chicken.”
To further the historical education, Quinn pulled two countries' flags from a previously empty tube.
“Fast forward a few thousand years,” Quinn told the crowd. “Some country owned Nebraska before it was even Nebraska. Can you tell me which flag this is?”
He pulled out a flag and waved it until an audience member proclaimed, “France!”
Giggling volunteers helped Quinn perform his illusions as he continued to teach them about Native Americans and famous magician Harry Houdini.
“Houdini actually got his big break in Omaha,” Quinn said. “He got a telegram from an agent at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha to perform his first show. After that, he was a huge success and inspiration to magicians everywhere, especially me.”
Quinn has been a practicing magician and hypnotist since 1991 and enjoys performing for children and adults alike. In 2016, he was named the North American Children’s Magician of the Year.
When he isn't performing at libraries and other venues, Quinn teaches magic to The Society of Young Magicians.