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February is “National Swallowing Disorders Month,” and International Sword Swallower’s Appreciation Day is taking place on February 28 to raise awareness of contributions sword swallowers have made to science and medicine since 1868. This February 28th, Sword Swallowers around the world will observe International Sword Swallower’s Day by doing what they do best – swallowing swords! Mayors, governors, and other governing bodies worldwide have been asked to issue proclamations to officialize the day.
Dan Meyer, the president of the Sword Swallowers Association International, proclaimed the day to raise awareness of sword swallowers around the world. Who better to tell us about International Sword Swallowers Appreciation Day than Dan Meyer? If the name Dan Meyer rings a bell, it could be because he has been featured in the Guiness World Book of Records as well as Ripley’s Believe It or Not. A Christian as well as a sword swallower, Dan Meyer also gained some television fame recently for his sword swallowing skills on 2008’s “America’s Got Talent.”
Dan Meyer was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the upcoming International Sword Swallowers Appreciation Day.
KD: Give us a little background on the Sword Swallowers Association International
Dan Meyer: I had been a fire-eater and juggler since I learned in college in 1975. After over 20 years of fire-eating, I began to see that there were from three to five fire-eaters in every major city. If you multiply three to five by 50,000 major cities around the world, that means there a LOT of fire-eaters, and even more jugglers around the world.
In 1997, I began researching sword swallowing earnestly. In 1998, I ran into my first real sword swallower, George the Giant, at Centennial Park in Nashville. George told me two tips: “It’s extremely dangerous, and people get killed trying it – So DON’T even try it!” Then he said, “That’s why there are less than a dozen sword swallowers left around the world today!” Well, that was enough to get me even more interested!
For the next three years, I continued researching sword swallowing, practicing 10-12 times per day, and trying to find those dozen sword swallowers. By the end of those three years, I had taught myself how to swallow solid steel swords from 15 to 30 inches long, and along the way, I had met a number of sword swallowers. So I decided to network them all together into the Sword Swallowers Association International!
KD: Where did you get the idea for International Sword Swallower’s Appreciation Day?
Dan Meyer: I realized that other occupations and professions have their own special days: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, President’s Day, Boss’s Day, Secretary’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Nurse’s Day, Magician’s Day, Juggler’s Day, Clown Week. September 19th is the annual “Talk Like a Pirate Day” which was picked up on by Dave Barry and has spread each year to become a well-known day for Pirate parties around the world over the past few years. If Bosses, Secretaries, Pirates, Magicians and Jugglers can have their own special Day, then why not Sword Swallowers?
KD: Why did you pick February 28 for International Sword Swallower’s Appreciation Day?
Dan Meyer: February is National Swallowing Awareness Month – a month when the medical community raises awareness of swallowing disorders like dysphagia, GERD, esophageal cancer, etc. I had gotten invited to speak and do demonstrations for doctors and nurses at some medical swallowing disorders clinics in previous Februaries, and realized that February is a great month for sword swallowers to do medical demonstrations with hospitals and medical centers for the public and the press!
February is also a month with few major holidays (Ground Hog’s Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Mardi Gras), and February is a slow month for most sword swallowers when we could each use a little extra publicity, press and bookings to get our name out there for more spring bookings! As much as we all love press, we certainly don’t want the media to swamp us with phone calls during our busiest seasons while we’re busy performing, so we chose a quiet month – February, picked a date that is easy to remember – February 28th, and hopefully, this will give us all a little exposure bump and a little extra press during a low month to start raising our visibility so we can start getting more bookings in the Spring and Summer!
KD: What are some of the reasons you celebrate International Sword Swallower’s Appreciation Day?
Dan Meyer: To raise awareness of the medical contributions that sword swallowers have made to medical science over the past 140 years. In 1868, Dr. Kussmaul used sword swallowers to develop first rigid endoscope in Freiburg, Germany. In 1906 the first esophageal electrocardiogram was performed on a sword swallower in Wales. In 2006, the Sword Swallowers Association International medical research study on sword swallowers was published in the British Medical Journal in the UK, and in 2007, that British Medical Journal article received the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine at Harvard. We also want to honor veteran sword swallowers for their contributions to the field of sword swallowing, to correct misconceptions and myths about sword swallowing, to create legitimacy for the art of sword swallowing by doing medical demonstrations for local hospitals, swallowing disorder centers, etc., and to raise awareness about sword swallowing by getting as many sword swallowers to swallow swords around the world together on February 28th.
This year we also want to create a world-recognized Ripley’s Believe It or Not event and possible Ripley’s Believe It or Not cartoon by inviting sword swallowers around the world to swallow swords with us altogether on February 28, 2009 at 2:28:09. We also hope to create a new Sword Swallowers Association International World Record for the number of sword swallowers swallowing a sword together on February 28th to prove that sword swallowing is still a thriving and viable entertainment option! Sword swallowers will also use the date as a reason to get together and have a sword swallower’s party and drop a few blades together with other sword swallowers for the press.
KD: What do you do on International Sword Swallowers Appreciation Day?
Dan Meyer: We sword swallowers have been risking our lives to perform sword swallowing for over 4000 years, but many people don’t believe it’s real, or they think the art has died out. We’ve established this day to promote this ancient art that is still being carried on by a few dozen surviving practitioners, to raise awareness of the medical contributions sword swallowers have made to the fields of medicine and science, to honor veteran performers, and to correct misconceptions and educate the public and medical professionals by putting on demonstrations for medical facilities and the media around the world.
Since some sword swallowers perform charitable work for the medical community to raise awareness of esophageal cancer, dysphagia, GERD, and other upper gastro-intestinal and swallowing disorders, Sword Swallowers Association International is encouraging sword swallowers to put on demonstrations at medical facilities and universities during the day. Sword swallowers will also perform at hospitals, nursing homes and orphanages for those who would otherwise have difficulty getting to theaters to see live performances. The sword swallowers who participate in these activities find them rewarding. On February 28th, many people will have the opportunity to see sword swallowing firsthand who would not otherwise have a chance to witness it.
KD: What places and organizations have you heard of that issued official proclamations about International Sword Swallowers Appreciation Day?
Dan Meyer: The mayor of Hartselle, Alabama proclaimed February 28th as Sword Swallowers Awareness Day. We have had several governors actually consider it, but for some reason, they just didn’t quite manage to get their pens to the paper, and as we all know, “the pen is mightier than the sword.”
KD: What are some of the results you’ve seen from the first International Sword Swallower’s Appreciation Day?
Dan Meyer: We had a number of sword swallowers perform at medical events and other public events around the world. We received lots of media inquiries and interviews – from radio, TV, newspapers and magazines. As a result, International Sword Swallowers Awareness Day has now been added to a number of calendars, including the Chase Calendar of Events, and Nickelodeon’s calendar, among others.
KD: What do you hope for future years?
Dan Meyer: Our hope is that International Sword Swallowers Appreciation Day will continue to grow each year with even more sword swallowers taking part next year. And of course, it would be great if Hallmark put out “Happy Sword Swallower’s Day” cards!
KD: How do you combine your faith with sword swallowing?
Dan Meyer: I use several Christian themes in my show, from unbelief-to-belief to swallowing one’s pride, to swallowing the Sword of the Spirit. My extreme ministry allows me to reach a wide audience and touch folks across a wide spectrum that other ministries might not be able to reach, from church youth to Goth rockers to bikers. I like to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable by performing real feats people think are impossible in order to prove how awesome God made the human body. I also like to remind audiences that God made everyone unique and everyone has their own unique gifts. I like to use my unique ministry to let audiences know that it’s ok to be unique and stand for what you believe in, whatever your calling is!”
Related Articles & Links:
Hard Act to Swallow
Nashville News: Dan Meyer
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