On a Tuesday afternoon, the sun set over Kokernut Park in Alpine while a group of hula hoopers enjoyed the scenery to exercise, dance and converse about their daily lives. Marlys Hersey of The Big Bend Gazette started this hula hoop meet-up — or what’s also known as a “hoop jam” in the hooping community — back in March of 2013. The group has grown to over 50 people, where they meet each week — with meetings at the Granada Theatre every 1st and 3rd Monday and every 2nd and 4th Sunday at Kokernut Park.
Marlys was inspired to create this group after she saw her friend, Rose, hoop dance for the first time. Hoop dancing is where you move in intricate ways while balancing and playing with a hula hoop around your body. The activity is also paired with music to help one feel the groove as you dance with a hula hoop.
While the activity looks attractive and mesmerizing, most people do it to get away from the stress of everyday life. Mary of Alpine, who’s been hooping for only two weeks, joined the community when her friend told her about it. She says she’s usually anxious on Sundays for the work week to start, but after the event she said, “I went home and was completely relaxed. I felt like I had an endorphin rush.”
The “hoop jams” attract many people of different ages and experience levels. At the age of 60, John of Alpine picked up hooping a little less than a year ago. He’s also a cyclist and runner and says that hoop dancing is the most difficult of the three. John used to be a social worker and says what he loves most about the activity is that it creates a strong sense of community.
Marlys wants to see this community grow so that everyone can experience the amount of joy it brings her. And while she hasn’t been able to convert her husband to the activity, she says he understands how much it helps her. She was stressed out after having a bad conversation over the phone when her husband said, “I think you should stop talking about that and go outside and hoop instead.”