Driving through Colon, Michigan, you would never think this tiny town of 1200 people is the Magic Capital of the World; that Bob Hope, Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin all got their starts here; that Edgar Bergen visited Colon regularly; or that the town cemetery is filled with deceased magicians.
Joe Gagnon, town historian dressed as famed magician Harry Blackstone, Sr., filled us in on Colon’s history during our recent tour of St. Joseph County.
We started our Colon tour in the FAB Magic shop (212 East State Street), one of three retail magic shops in Colon. FAB Magic’s walls are covered with photos and posters from Colon’s early magic days.
Colon’s Magic Beginning
Magic in Colon got its start in the early 1900s when Blackstone moved there. He and Australian business partner Percy Abbott, who also settled in Colon, started a magic trick manufacturing company. The partnership didn’t last, but magic in Colon did.
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Blackstone, whose career began in Vaudeville, continued performing magic after his partnership with Abbott dissolved. His home base was on what is now called Blackstone Island in Colon (although technically it’s a peninsula). Because theaters were too hot to perform in during the summer, Blackstone’s crew stayed on the island during the summer months fixing equipment and practicing for the following season.
In the meantime, Percy Abbott started another magic trick manufacturing business and took on another partner. He started the annual week-long Magic Get Together event in which magicians came from all over the world to commiserate and perform magic shows. Abbot Magic is still in business today, and the Magic Get Together continues, as well, celebrating its 78th event in 2015. In addition, relative newcomer Rick Fisher, owner of FAB Magic, sponsors another week-long festival, MagiCelebration, every summer. 2015 is the 12th year for the MagiCelebration festival.
Colon Historical Museum
Not surprising, many of the exhibits in the Colon Historical Museum (211 N Blackstone) pertain to magic. Gagnon pointed out photographs of old-time magicians and other entertainers who either started here or came to the Get Togethers.
The bodies of over 20 magicians are buried in Lakeside Cemetery. Some were living in Colon when they died, some were former residents and others came only for the annual Get Together events. A list of magicians’ graves is available in the museum and the FAB Magic shop. Lakeside Cemetery is located on North Farrand Road, just north of Colon Road.
Colon Magic Shows
Besides the two week-long magic festivals in Colon, Rick Fisher performs family-friendly magic shows at 12 noon on Saturdays from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
You’d be hard pressed to find another town as wrapped up in magic as Colon, Michigan. With three magic shops, three magic trick manufacturing companies and two major annual magic celebrations, it’s no wonder Colon refers to itself as “the magic capital of the world.”
Disclosure: My visit to Colon, Michigan, was hosted by the River Country Tourism Council of Greater St. Joseph County. However, all opinions in this article are my own.
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