Why a family of magicians keep putting on a show at the Manistee National Forest Festival

MANISTEE – One of the unique gems of the Manistee National Forest Festival is an annual magic show presented by a family for families at the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts in Manistee.

Wissner’s Wizards is made up of five children under the age of 16 and the group was due to take the stage at 2pm and 7pm on Sunday.

Michael Sager Wissner, 15, said he got involved in the magic show because of his grandfather, Wayne Wissner.

“He’s a really fun guy and it’s just a special thing that we can really do just for him,” Michael said. “He was a magician for quite a long time and he really introduced us to magic.”

Wayne Wissner is also on the shows as he performs a trick known as the Mummy Illusion where a child pops out of a mummy, but it’s unclear how. He grew up in Manistee and is a retired professional magician who performed his first magic show at age 7.

It was the Mummy Case illusion that drew Michael into the world of magic shows when he saw his grandfather perform.

“It was really cool to watch and he got us interested in doing shows, so we’re doing them for him and with him,” he said.

Michael and the other Wizards have been performing since they were around five years old.

Aria Grossenbach, 12, has a different take on what draws her to the stage each year.

“I like to wow people,” Aria said. “It’s fun to see their faces when you’re doing magic and they’re amazed by what you’re doing.”

She said many of the tricks involve audience members giving children in attendance a chance to engage with the show.

“Kids are usually more amazed sometimes (than adults),” she said.

Michael noted that performing magic on stage is somewhat terrifying at first.

“But after loving the first show in front of an audience, it’s just like ‘oh, that’s not really bad. And then you just accept it,” he explained.

The family has been training for the 2022 Manistee National Forest Festival show since last month.

Recently, the team practiced about four to five hours a day, then finally rehearsed on Saturday morning before the Sunday show.

The Sager Wissner branch of the family lives in Barry County, and the Grossenbachs live in Illinois and coordinate their practices.

Anthony Sager Wissner, 12, said he loved the magic element, being on stage, as well as the improvisations and audience interactions.

He does tricks like turning a balloon into a guinea pig, or shows how he can wrap metal rings around each other or tie a moving knot that seems to reattach the severed clothesline, magically making it back again.

Anthony said he enjoys both stage tricks that require more stage space and smaller stage appearances that require more conversation with an audience.

“Don’t be afraid to speak up if it’s a little trick. Don’t be afraid to interact with the magicians,” he said, adding that in some tricks he expects feedback from the audience. “Laughs, sometimes saying what they think the thing is going to be, how it works.”

The two youngest artists in the group are Lennon Grossenbach, 12, and Oscar Grossenbach, 9.

“It’s fun to show what we can do in front of people,” Lennon said.

Lennon said each band member tends to try a particular trick to see what works best for each member.

According to Lennon’s biography, he is a competitive gymnast, cross-country runner, discus, and field long jumper.

According to Oscar’s biography, he spends a lot of time on the ice as a competitive short track speed skater and figure skater and he has recently performed in the “Nutcracker on Ice”, “Cinderella on Ice” and the “National Theater on Ice”. championships last month.

Oscar is tasked with making a pop bottle disappear among other tricks.

Proceeds from profits are donated to the Manistee County Humane Society.

More information about the magic show can be found on Wayne Wissner, Magician’s Facebook page.

Brian L. Hartfield