• Image about Pat Cuartero

May the best yo-yoer win.

In the ballroom on the top floor of the Hotel Pennsylvania in Manhattan, across the hallway from a self-esteem seminar, a voice can be heard booming the fateful phrase, “Please check in at the DJ booth with your music and your yo-yos,” over the PA system.

The second annual International Yo-Yo Open & New York State Yo-Yo Contest describes itself as the world’s largest yo-yo event; over the next two days, organizers expect a crowd of more than 20,000. Yo-yo stars have flown in from the UK, South America, Japan, and Central Europe and are now mingling about the room, eagerly showing each other tricks.

The constant whizzing noise sounds like an assembly of excitable insects. Open yo-yo cases bristle with arsenals of colorful models resting in padded foam. One owner shows off his collection by popping the prized yo-yos in and out of their padded foam as though he’s in an action movie, demonstrating parts of a sniper rifle.
Dozens of yo-yoers have shown up for today’s event and a chance to compete in tomorrow’s main competition at South Street Seaport. Yo-yo gear is sprawled across vendor tables, and sponsor banners hang from the walls -- it’s a complete spectacle, like a NASCAR event, minus the cars and the racetrack.

Athletic build is of no consequence in the yo-yo world. Competitors run the gamut from scrawny to overfed. There seems to be no evidence of steroid juicing in this sport. What matters most is how well you control a spinning disk on a string.