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Domino Dan

By Staff | Aug 7, 2009

Domino Dan, Dan Beckerleg, places the final dominos on his masterpiece at the Humboldt County Fair. Beckerleg is 47 years old and has been setting up domino topples for fairs and companies since he was 19. This particular topple contained 5,000 dominos and took him eight hours to set up.

HUMBOLDT – Dash Boitnott was so excited to see the dominos fall he could hardly contain himself.

“What if he accidentally knocked one over right now,” 10-year-old Boitnott said. “Or what if he had this whole room filled with dominos. That would be so cool.”

The “he” Boitnott referred to was Domino Dan, a domino architectural engineer, who was setting up last week a 5,000-domino topple at the Humboldt County Fair.

With a hand as steady as a surgeon’s, Dan Beckerleg sat cross-legged on his pillow and finished placing the final dominos in his multicolored masterpiece as a crowd gathered around.

At 6 p.m. Beckerleg selected a domino from one of his seven childhood sets. The action was about to begin.

With a countdown chorus, reminiscent of a rocket launch, Beckerleg tapped the domino and a whir ensued.

For one minute and six seconds the crowd stood entranced as dominos knocked one another over in multiple patterns. A huge cheer erupted at the end.

“That was so cool,” Boitnott said. “I wish I could do that.”

And the coolest part Boitnott does not even know is that he could do this. Beckerleg’s love for dominos began when he was five years younger than Boitnott, and his mother bought him his first domino set.

“I originally started toppling dominos on our kitchen table,” Beckerleg said. “I’ve been playing with them since I was five years old.”

Now 47 years old, Beckerleg has no intention of giving up his lifelong passion. So he takes his show to fairs and conventions with help from Dean Short Talent in Omaha, Neb., but since his line of work is so unique Beckerleg receives phone calls for product promotions and TV shows independent of an agent.

“I mainly market myself,” Beckerleg said. “People find me on the Internet and e-mail me saying ‘I’m so-and-so and I need to find someone to do a domino topple.’ Well, there’s a select few of us that do it, so I usually get the job.”

While it’s amazing Beckerleg has the patience to set up 5,000 dominos for eight hours and then devote another four hours to cleaning up for a show that’s a little over a minute long, this show is on the small scale of what he can do.

“The biggest topple I ever did was for Coca-Cola when they were celebrating their 100-year anniversary,” Beckerleg said. “They had one person on each continent, North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia.

“They flew me to Australia, and the topple started in Atlanta, Geo. Every 15 seconds the next continent’s topple was triggered by satellites. For some reason, the company didn’t want publicity, so only Coke employees were able to watch via satellites.”

The worldwide topple may have been Beckerleg’s biggest topple, but the most dominos he’s ever used is staggering: 55,000.

“It was for a fundraiser for a playground in Granby, Mass.,” Beckerleg said.

The entire student body was involved. High school students did most of the domino set up while the middle school students prepared the dominos. Elementary students watched on and were able to set the topple in motion when the time was right.

So how does one go from toppling dominos on their kitchen table to traveling around the world and get paid to set up and knock them down?

“I was a senior in high school when I saw an ad in the newspaper that the Hemophilia Society of New York was coming to Poughkeepsie to do a world record topple and they needed people behind the scenes,” Beckerleg said. “Back then the record was a bit over 170,000 dominos, now it’s a bit over four million.”

That first gig landed Beckerleg some regular work with the Hemophilia Association. He created topples for their fundraising commercials. Since then Beckerleg has worked in 18 different states and two foreign countries.

“What else can get you that?” he asked.

To supplement his income, Beckerleg works at a grocery store in his hometown of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but there’s no doubt dominos will continue to hold a special place in his heart.

“The crowd’s reaction is the best part,” Beckerleg said, “because everyone plays with blocks or dominos when they are kids, and to see how happy the little kids get, and the big kids, is the best.”

By the smiles and cheers, it was apparent all the kids, small and big alike, in Humboldt were amazed and entertained.

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