Cole Reiman, central Iowa’s own ‘greatest showman’

Keegan Kearney

Growing up the youngest of three sons, Cole Reiman had trouble living up to the achievements of his brothers. One was a star athlete, the other, a brainy, high achieving student.

Reiman was neither; his grades weren’t bad, but he never had an interest in sports, thus having no skills to compare to his older brothers. Then, out of sheer boredom, he decided that he would learn a new skill: juggling.

After two hours of practice and after dropping the baseballs on his hard kitchen floor an embarrassing number of times, he had learned the basics of ball juggling. Today, at 18, Reiman can juggle—in fact, he can do it on a unicycle. He can also do it while solving a Rubik’s cube behind his back. In a typical practice session, you might find him balancing a steel ladder on his chin, snapping a bottle out of the air with a bullwhip or performing a host of other feats in preparation for his next show.

Reiman is a professional performing artist, playing at large venues for a variety of events in the Des Moines area, including the Iowa State Fair, his highest paid performance to date. Despite doing his shows professionally and carrying around a stack of business cards, Reiman doesn’t like to think of himself as a professional. To him, all of this is just another aspect of his life, and an important part of his personal philosophy; anything can be achieved with the right effort, and the most worthwhile goals are those that affect other people.

That’s what his business as a performance artist means to him; reaching his audience and showing them something they never thought possible- like balancing a kayak on his chin or juggling a baseball, bowling ball and ping pong ball at the same time.

Don’t believe it? Neither do some audience members—until he proves it to them by dropping the bowling ball.

“Pretty much anything can be a juggling prop,” said Reiman, who has a trunk of props that resembles a travel-sized toy store or the lost and found bin at a circus. There are clubs, hoops, rings, bottles, spinning plates and a six foot steel ladder among its contents. Reiman also recalled instances where he juggled shoes taken from audience members.

Reiman is a freshman in agricultural education at DMACC, a decision that actually came to him through his performances. After playing for a large crowd at Hilton Coliseum for the FFA, he realized that he wanted to use the skills he has learned as a performer to teach, and to hopefully impart something entirely new and unexpected on the people he meets both in the classroom and on the stage.

Although he had been performing for years for people in his community, Reiman’s decision to brand himself and start actively pursuing show business came after his largest performance, two large shows at the State Fair that amassed huge audiences. The encouragement he got from the woman who had hired him for the show changed his outlook on the possibilities of having such a menagerie of tricks up his sleeve. He realized he could reach more audiences and even help stave off the costs of college by taking on more gigs.

He’s had a good run since he began performing seriously, and a sizable amount of his first year’s expenses at DMACC were paid for with money he made during his shows. Reiman is looking to expand his operation across Iowa and bring his passion for engaging, impacting, and inspiring people to new audiences. 

Reiman has even been nominated for a TED Talk due to his unique outlook on the relationship between his performance and his life philosophy, which includes making the best of opportunities and reaching people. Something as seemingly simple as juggling has taken Reiman on a deeper journey into the possibilities of a life lived without fear of failure.

“You start just talking about juggling some balls, and then you end up with this whole new life purpose. It’s crazy,” Reiman said. 

This is how he expresses himself, and being able to do that has been an important part of his development as a person.

For Reiman, the goal is to meet and then surpass the expectations of the audience and change their perspective on what a person can really do. This is his way of giving back to the community.

“It was never about making a living off of it.” says Reiman. “It was always; how can I take this to the next step to make people and impressed and see something that they didn’t think they would see today… something that they didn’t think was possible.”

Although his tricks seem impossible to his audience, it is his work ethic that has brought him so far; Reiman sets a goal and he chases it hard, grinding at the intricacies of a new trick until it begins to feel natural. He is hesitant to say that his experience with learning tricks will reflect the time it will take for others; he learned the basics of juggling in two hours, unicycling took him a couple months and he generally spends a lot of time per day learning and mastering his moves.

Some people may have different aptitudes and find certain tricks easier or harder. He also says that certain studies have proven that learning complex skills like juggling may increase gray matter and connections in the brain, which he believes is definitely his experience. He encourages everyone to give juggling, or whatever skill piques their interest, a chance, no matter how difficult it seems.

“You always gotta keep at it.” he said. “If you have a passion, and you want to work towards it, you always gotta keep moving forward. If you enjoy it, then other people will too.”

Overall, Cole Reiman’s main goal in show business is to impart one of the many wisdoms he has come across in his juggling journey;

“You’re always gonna have regrets,” he said. “But you just need to choose which ones are worth regretting.”