PAW PAW - Fascinated by magic at an early age, a former Paw Paw resident is now traveling the world captivating audiences with his own style of magic.
Rick Merrill returns to Paw Paw Saturday night, Oct. 5, at 6 p.m. where he’ll perform at New Hope Fellowship Church, 201 W. Michigan Ave. A free-will offering will be taken.
“My dad was an amateur magician and he did many shows throughout Paw Paw, Lawton, Mattawan, that included library shows, Boy Scouts banquets, church parties, and more,” said Merrill.
Merrill credits his father who instilled in him his lifelong passion for magic.
“My love of magic comes from being able to enjoy it with my dad as a kid. He supported me, encouraged me, funded my obsession, and was the best “spectator” I could ever practice on. He was my inspiration,” said Merrill of his father, who passed away a couple of years ago.
At age 9, Merrill quickly became fascinated with the branch of magic known as “sleight-of-hand.” “Sleight of Hand” is regarded by magicians as one of the most difficult genres in magic.
Merrill was drawn to it because it allowed him to create the appearance of magic using just his hands, his wits, and a few simple props.
For his first audience - his family - those props were playing cards. Needless to say, after 10 years of picking “just one more card,” Merrill recalled that his family was thrilled when his assortment of props grew to include more than just cards.
Merrill grew up on South LaGrave Street. “I have many fond memories of my youth.”
Merrill said he attended the Grape and Wine Festivals, football games at Tyler Field as a child, and the parades.
“My grandfather, Cliff Merrill, owned a bakery in town before I was born - Merrill Bakery.”
Merrill said, “I would’ve loved to have visited his bakery. To be fair, I loved the M&M Sweet Shop in town and was partial to the chocolate long johns they made.”
Merrill also recalled visits to The Shopping Center.
“I loved going to The Shopping Center, and I really loved sledding on my butt down the giant snow hills they’d make throughout the winters as they plowed their parking lot.”
Merrill also performed at the Village Playhouse.
“I was a “lost boy” in the Village Playhouse productions of “Peter Pan” when I was little,” said Merrill.
Merrill and his family attended First Baptist Church in Paw Paw, with Pastor Buddy Turner.
During that time, Merrill took part in the church Awana clubs.
“I have many great memories and as a hyper kid sitting in church,” said Merrill.
Other activities Merrill recalled included being on a bowling team at Rainbow Lanes. He also played AYSO soccer and travel soccer while living in Paw Paw, where he mother was employed by LakeView Hospital, and his father, employed by Coca-Cola Foods.
Merrill said, “I loved the Easter Egg hunts at Maple Lake, and dollar night at the Strand Theater,” where he saw “The Empire Strikes Back” as a youngster. “ I spent all of my change at the candy section of the former Ben Franklin store.”
Merrill attended Taylor University in Indiana, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and a minor in communications studies. After graduation, Merrill moved to Grand Rapids, to pursue his “magical” career. He also married his college sweetheart, Lindsay. The couple have three sons.
By 2004, Merrill had won the top prize at national conventions of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Society of American Magicians, the two largest and oldest magic organizations in North America.
In addition to those top honors, Merrill also captured awards in originality and comedy. The biggest compliment, he felt was being named “People’s Choice” at both conventions.
In 2006, Merrill represented the United States at the World Championships of Magic in Stockholm, Sweden.
Hosted by FISM (The “Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques” or the “International Federation of Magic Societies”), the event occurs every three years to select the best-of-the-best in the world of magic.
Merrill captured top honors as World Champion in Close-Up Magic and became only the fourth American to win the award in the event’s 60-year history.
He is a featured performer at the world famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and performed in person and on television in more than a dozen different countries.
Merrill filmed his first U.S. television appearance on a special for Fox TV, which aired in early 2009.
Merrill has also performed in France, Belgium, Spain, England, Italy, Russia, Japan, Sweden, Canada, Korea, Portugal, and Beijing, China.
He has also performed for company executives at business celebrations and for non-profit groups. Some of those groups include: Eaton Corporation, Alticor, Open Systems Technologies, Miller Johnson, and Sauder.