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The hottest ticket in town

KINGSTON — The only thing missing was a camping tent.

The Stillwaters Environmental Education Center fund-raiser on Sunday night had all the makings for a perfect overnighter in the woods.

There was African drumming from the Spectrum Drummers and a three-song set by three-student band, No Relation, from Spectrum Community School. The clear night had a slight chill to it and damp ground from the weekend’s rain encouraged everyone to dress in warm jeans, fleece and boots.

The hot cocoa, cider and cookies were provided throughout the evening as neighbors of the North End sat on the floor of North Kitsap Fire & Rescue’s meeting room during the music performances. Parents danced with their children and other young ones chased each other around the room.

The final element of camping — fire — was also provided, but in a most unconventional way.

Jay Benham and three of his friends entertained the audience with their dazzling fire-eating, fire-breathing and twirling during a performance for the Stillwaters event. Benham volunteered to put on a fire show for the center after he and his wife moved to the area and started volunteering.

Members of Stillwaters decided to put on the center’s first fund-raising event in hopes of increasing the awareness of the organizations’ work and facility expansion.

“The whole idea is so beautiful,” Benham said about the center.

He gathered several friends from his now-defunct Seattle fire performance group and put on two hot shows for more than 150 people.

The first show, held in the side yard of NKF&R, gave a little hint of what was to come later that evening. Using martial arts-like equipment with wicks on the end that were doused in fuel and lit, the skilled performers twirled the blazing torches around their bodies.

For the second show, when it was finally dark outside (“It’s no fun when it’s light out,” Benham said), the performers pulled out more fuel to impress the crowds and even exhaled large orange and red balls of fire from their mouth or “ate” the bright flames.

Benham was inspired to become involved with the flammable stuff after seeing a show several years ago. He said he liked the idea of manipulating fire, “because it’s such an uncontrollable element.”

In addition to swinging the flames of fire in all ways and directions, Benham said he loves performing to music and appreciated the accompaniment of drumming by the Spectrum Drummers during the performances. Typically, he said he likes to use tribal and African drumming, Australian Aboriginal music and sometimes even electronica, but it can be done to pretty much anything.

The turnout for the center’s fund-raiser was quite a success in the eye’s of Stillwaters’ Program Director Joleen Palmer.

“I think it’s very energetic,” Palmer remarked.

“We appreciate the spirit of the community participation in the event. It’s fun to have the young people here performing and the fire performers are quite exhilarating.”

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