“The joke we make is that Ferryville is the laughter capital of the universe” was how ‘Laughing’ Laura Gentry described the upcoming event in Ferryville.
‘Laugh-Fest of the Midwest’ is celebrating ten years of joy and laughter. Six of those years, including this year’s upcoming event, have been held in Ferryville at the Sugar Creek Bible Camp. It’s a location that holds a special place in Gentry’s heart.
“I have longtime ties to the camp,” Gentry explained. “I was a summer counselor there in my youth. Now as a pastor in Lansing, I take people over there as a retreat. It seemed like the best option for this event because laughter yoga is all about renewal and fun and the camp offers just that. The camp itself lends a great deal to the overall experience.
“That’s why we’ve been holding the Laugh-Fest here for years. Not only do you connect with your laugh, your soul and your friends, but you connect with the natural world,” Gentry noted. “This makes the experience much more whole.”
Laughter Yoga may not be something many in the area are familiar with, but it doesn’t take long to catch on to the fun.
“Laughter yoga is a way of harnessing the healing power of laughter,” Gentry explained “It’s a simple premise that anyone can laugh. We don’t need jokes, comedy, or a sense of humor. All that’s necessary is the desire to laugh—to open up our hearts and let the joy of laughter flow.”
In the mid-1990s, laughter yoga was practiced in the early mornings in open parks, primarily by groups of older people. Shortly there after, it rose to popularity as an exercise routine developed by Indian physician Madan Kataria. Kataria’s theory seemed to be based on the old adage “laughter is the best medicine,” which proved to be pretty darn effective.
A handful of small-scale scientific studies have indicated that laughter yoga may potentially have some medically beneficial effects, including benefits to cardiovascular health and mood. One study conducted at Oxford University even found that pain thresholds become “significantly higher after laughter, compared to the control condition and saw this as being due to the laughter itself, rather than the mood of the subject.”
Laugh Fest hopes to harness this healing energy and mix it in with lots of fun for participants.
“There are a number of all star laughter people,” Gentry told the Independent-Scout.
The keynote speaker of the event is Robert Rivest. who is an internationally admired performer and teacher, as well as being a professional mime artist. In addition to his mime performance and giving a workshop called ‘Mindfulness, Expression and Laughter Yoga,’ Rivest will also be offering a two-day Laughter Yoga Leader Certification Course during the May 4-5 event. Those interesting registering for the course can find more information at www.robertrivest.com.
Also available during the event is the opportunity to become a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher. Lynda Tourloukis will be offering a five-day Laughter Yoga Certification course April 30-May 4 which will also be held at Sugar Creek and coincide with the Laugh Fest. Tourloukis is also the original founder of Laugh-Fest in the Midwest and will be leading lots of fun during the 10-year anniversary of the event. To learn more or to register for the certification course you can visit her website www.laughteryogalife.com.
Another fun addition to the event is Celia. She has been described as “a cross between an earthy Enya, Joan Baez and Tina Fey.” Celia will be making her third trip to Laughter-Fest. She is a singer/songwriter, comedienne and Laughter Yoga Teacher, who combines her heartfelt vocals with wacky comedic improvisations. She will play a concert on Friday night and the Church field trip on Sunday morning.
Reverend Jane Voights will also be getting the laughter rolling at the event. She is a comedian, writer and Methodist Minister. Currently living in Waverly, Iowa, she works to develop projects that build bridges between comedy and theology including a podcast called Sacred Cow-Tippers. She has become a regular at the Laugh-Fest and this year she will be back with more zaniness.
The Laughing DJs, Delan Jensen and Julie Pugmire will be presenting at the event all the way from Utah. The two have many degrees between them and both have certificates in Positive Psychology. Together they hope to show the crowd amazing, creative, and mind-blowing things you can do with Laughter Yoga.
Amanda Rhine of Decorah, Iowa, will be shanking things up by leading a delightful, energizing, hip hop dance class at the Laugh Fest Party. Participants are encouraged to get ready to shake it!
Jeff Abbas is a diversified organic farmer and environmental activist. He’ll be leading an edible wild plants hike at the Laugh- Fest, so participants can taste the bounty of the land and help make dinner with it.
Teddy Widdel will be presenting at the event. Widdel is a motivational speaker, singer and laughter yoga teacher. She has a wealth of experience working with seniors and lifting their spirits with her overwhelming joy.
‘Laughing’ Laura Gentry, chief organizer of Laugh-Fest will be sharing a variety of things this year, including the ever-popular Kundalini Dancing Meditation.
Judith Hitt who has a background in nursing and got her inspiration from hosting Patch Adams in Vermont, while he gave a presentation on humor and healing, will lead joyful meditation.
Aaron Covey is a Laughter Leader based out of Seboygan. He will be bringing his self-care workshop to Laugh-Fest for the first time.
Another fabulous presenter is Kenny Ahren. He has been touring the planet for over 20 years and is a former faculty member with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown College and the UW-LaCrosse’s Clown Camp- among other clown honors and experience. Kenny will lead the group in a Pie Fight! He will teach participants the fine clown art of making and throwing pies. As well as comic water spitting techniques sure to make you laugh.
Registration is now open for the event. The all-inclusive price for the event will be $265. This includes two nights of shared retreat housing with a bathroom, all meals, healthy snacks, and a myriad of delightful programing for the weekend.
“I would love for local people to pop by,” Gentry explained. “There is a Saturday option or they can come for the whole weekend. We want to make it accessible to everyone. You can come to the retreat and not stay on the grounds at a reduced rate. We want to accommodate anyone who would like to join us.”
For more information or to register you can visit www.laughinglaura.com or call Laura at 1-563-880-2699.
“It’s really about the opportunity to have fun. Right now people are so divided and frustrated, it’s a good time for laughter,” Gentry concluded.