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Bike stuntman highlights kids' day

Vogel Plaza in downtown Medford is the epicenter of a host of holiday happenings for kids on Saturday

Jeremy VanSchoonhoven says the trick to jumping off a seven-foot scaffolding on a mountain bike is balancing on your back tire and holding your bike as vertical as you can, so that when you land it's as if you and your bike are a giant shock absorber and you take the hit without crushing your bike, or yourself.

The seven-foot fall is just one of the many stunts the 20-year-old professional will demonstrate Saturday in Medford. The bicycle stunts are part of a holiday day of events for kids organized by Shirley Bewley of the Heart of Medford Association.

VanSchoonhoven, a Williams resident, travels the world competing in mountain bike trials and was 16th in this year's world championship stunt riding event in Austria.

He recommends would-be stunt riders start with something smaller than a seven-foot fall.

Start off slow, like riding off a curb, he said. Be sure you wear your helmet.

While HOMA has planned holiday events before, Bewley said this is the first year there's been a full day of entertainment.

From a magic show to bagpipes, there's something for all ages, she said, including the Salvation Army serving free hot chocolate.

And be sure to check the sky for some special guests flying in from Redmond.

I'm excited about the reindeer, she said.

Jerry Horton, co-owner of Lawrence's Jewelers, arranged a lot of Saturday's entertainment.

It's focused on children. It's kind of a fun day, he said, adding that he hopes there's a big turnout.

While bike stunts aren't a Christmas tradition, Horton said he thought the event would be fun to watch, especially for older kids and adults. He added that in Oregon, VanSchoonhoven is well-known.

I think most people who cycle or race will know Jeremy, he said.

Horton, who was the 2000 mountain bike national champion in the 45-to-50 age group, said he knows VanSchoonhoven from races and that he's not only skilled but approachable.

He's an easy-to-get-along-with kid, said Horton. He knows how good he is, but he doesn't have a big ego thing going on.

VanSchoonhoven's sport, observed trials riding, has caught on in countries such as Austria, Canada, Spain, Japan and the United Kingdom.

The rider uses balance and control while maneuvering over a designated obstacle course without letting his or her feet touch the ground. Riders edge down planks, hop from picnic table to picnic table and fling themselves over boulders on a mountain bike.

VanSchoonhoven rides a custom-made bike from DeSalvo Custom Cycles in Ashland. He said that financially, he's barely squeaking by as a professional and that he doesn't make his money from winning competitions.

How you make money is through sponsors and demos, said VanSchoonhoven, who is sponsored by Adidas.

He said this is the off-season, but he travels throughout the year for competitions, training and demonstrations.

Last year I went to Austria, to Poland, to Canada and all over the U.S., he said. There aren't any local competitions, he said.

He said he rides his bike every day and that training consists of stunt riding, distance riding and weight training.

On Saturday, in addition to jumping off scaffolding, VanSchoonhoven plans to jump between picnic tables and jump over volunteers from the audience. The demonstration will take place on Bartlett Street between Main Street and Middleford Alley. It is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. and will last about 30 minutes. He'll be available to talk with enthusiasts after the demonstration.Schedule of eventsHoliday events for kids will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in and around Vogel Plaza in downtown Medford. The schedule includes:

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ' Reindeer on display from Operation Santa Claus in Redmond.

10 a.m. ' Safety Clowns from Community Works perform.

11 a.m. ' Jeremy VanSchoonhoven demonstrates mountain bike tricks (Bartlett Street).

Noon ' Miss American Bell Royalty Magic Show is performed, with Rhiannon and songs by Makenna and Caris.

12:45 p.m. ' Eastwood Baptist Kids Hand Bell Choir performs.

— p.m. ' The Jefferson Pipes plays bagpipes and drums.

2 to 4 p.m. ' Santa Claus sings and tells stories, then visits with children.

Foster care volunteers will be at Vogel Plaza with bins accepting clothing and personal items as donations for foster children.

For more information, contact Shirley Bewley, manager of the Heart of Medford Association, at 245-3673.