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Oxford Man Perfects the Art of Making Magical Smiles

Steven Thomas, magician and “balloon guy” Photo provided

By Alyssa Schnugg
Staff writer

Steve Thomas doesn’t mind being known around Oxford as the “balloon guy.”

“I didn’t coin that name but it’s what everyone calls me,” Thomas said recently.

Sitting next to him during his interview with Hottytoddy.com is what looks like a small ukulele case.

“It’s my magic kit I keep in the car but it’s hot today so I didn’t want to leave it out there,” he said.

Thomas has lived in Oxford since moving here with his parents in the early 70s when he was in the fifth grade.

His love for magic started at the young age of about 7 years old. By 9, he and his friend were hired for their first “paid gig.” They were hired to do a magic show at a birthday party.

“We told her it would be $5,” Thomas said. “She gave us both $5 though.”

He continued to hone his magic skills by reading books and later, watching videos.

“We didn’t have YouTube back then,” he said with a chuckle. “The closest magic shop was in Memphis and my parents would take me there once in a while and I’d learn a new trick.”

After graduating from Oxford High School, he attended the University of Mississippi where he earned his degree in journalism. He worked I radio for several years. In 1986, he dragged out his magic gear from his father’s house and worked on his sleight of hand skills. He took an add out in local newspapers and in the phone book as a magician for hire.

Thomas said he tries to keep his act a balance of magic and comedy.

“Some go with being very mysterious,” he said. “If I can make you laugh and mystify you at the same time, that’s perfect.”

While doing a magic show at Pizza Hut one night many moons ago, Thomas said the Pizza Hut management asked him if he could do something geared to small children. He taught himself how to twist balloons into all kinds of shapes and sizes. Today, he can make about 260 different things out of one balloon.

“I do as much ballooning as I do magic these days,” he said.

He’s often seen around town during community events like the Oxford Square Alliance Summer Festival where he creates everything from swords to flower hats for the youngsters.

Thomas said he’s been lucky in his magic career that he’s been able to “bring back” everything he made “go away.”

“I’ve ‘ground up’ $2,000 diamond rings and made them disappear, but it all seems to work out in the end,” he said smiling. “I just enjoy making people smile. There’s nothing better than handing a kid something and doing a magic effect and seeing their mouth drop open.”

Now 56, Thomas said he doesn’t plan on giving up magic or ballooning anytime soon, despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease eight years ago.

“I’ve been lucky that my Parkinson’s is very slow progressing,” he said. “I’m hard-headed. It’s not going to stop me.”

Thomas and his wife, Karen have two adult children. Neither one has followed in their father’s footsteps to become magicians.

“I’d love to find a young person to teach,” he said. “It’s important to pass it along.”
Thomas also has served as the Mississippi Territorial Vice President for the International Brotherhood of Magicians and is a member of the Society of American Magicians.

Every year he performs at the Barnes Crossing Mall on Halloween night, doing two shows, one at 6 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.

“I may grow older, but I’ll always just be a big kid who likes to make people smile for a living,” Thomas said.

For more information or to book an event with Thomas, call 662-816-POOF.

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