Utica's rock illusionist Leon Etienne got a pretty big surprise after a friend was driving down Burrstone Road in Utica recently. It was a billboard, one of a handful scattered around the area thanking Leon for bringing magic into people's lives during COVID-19 restrictions.

It turns out, it really was a surprise for Etienne because he didn't purchase the billboard and he had no idea it was coming. The only explanation is that during the pandemic, along with performing on national television programs like Penn and Teller's Fool Us, America's Got Talent and the CW's Masters of Illusion, the Utica native has been home performing private magic shows from people's driveways. "They stand on their porch and we're socially distanced," Etienne told WIBX's Keeler Show recently. It seems that one of those satisfied "home" audience members decided to send him a public thank you, in the form of a billboard.

"This is a huge surprise. I was sent pictures of these billboards throughout Utica and the surrounding areas," said Etienne. "All I can say is...WOW! This is beyond awesome. I’m so grateful to the people who made this happen," he said.

(Photo courtesy of Magic Rocks,  Leon Etienne)

In a recent interview with the Keeler Show on WIBX, Etienne described how, for the most part, all of his shows just came to a screeching halt in March. Meanwhile, it's currently unclear how long it will be before states begin allowing inside performances to return.  So, until then he'll continue to do small private performances from people's driveways.

"This has inspired me to keep going. To keep magic alive," Etienne said. "My work doesn’t stop now that the weather is cooling. I still have tons of requests coming in for backyard/driveway shows throughout the fall. If I need to wear a hat and gloves to stay warm... so be it. I will keep spreading magic in a world that needs it now more than ever," he added.

As far as the billboards go, Etienne is still unclear who actually took the time and money to purchase the billboard and send out such a public thank you, "I cannot stop smiling. I read it over and over and I can’t believe someone would do this for me. I’m going to head out this weekend and see them in person. I'm very excited," said Etienne.

For more information about America's Rock Illusionist, visit his website at magicrocks.com.