By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Hula-Hoops aren’t just for kids anymore, and Natalie Brown wants people to visit the Project 308 Gallery Thursday evening to find out why.
The gallery is hosting a Hula-Hoop night 7 to 9:30 p.m., allowing novices and experts alike to pick up a hoop — or two or three — and show their stuff along to music put on by a DJ.
Brown, proprietor of the gallery, said she was inspired to hold the event by large music festivals and jam band concerts she and her sister-in-law, Alyson Brown, like to attend.
“After going to a lot of jam band-type concerts I was exposed to the Hula-Hooper world and I always found it interesting and really fun,” Natalie said. “The people who do it as a hobby — or sometimes professionally — are really talented, plus it’s a really good work out.”
Alyson said Hula-Hoopers often gather at the shows with their custom-made and decorated hoops to do tricks and share in the fun.
“It’s so beautiful,” Alyson said of the hobby. “It’s mesmerizing and so graceful.”
It’s a far cry from the kind of Hula-Hooping one might remember doing in the back yard as a kid.
It’s not just about whirling a hoop around your waist for these hoopers — though that’s certainly an option as well. There are tricks and specialty hoops. There’s the knee-knocker, the footsee and the flamingo. You can hoop around your shoulders, elbows, neck and even use mini hoops around your arms.
Alyson said most of the tricks she knows were self-taught by looking up videos online. She has since been involved in area Hula-Hooping groups and meets fellow hoopers at Bidwell Park in Buffalo.
“During the summer time I go and Hula-Hoop on Bidwell (Parkway) and you’ll find Hula Hoopers every day,” Alyson said. “You don’t even have to know the person. It’s a nice way to meet people ... you find each other eventually.”
Thursday’s event isn’t just for the advanced hooper, Natalie said. People of all skill levels — even those who have never picked up a Hula-Hoop — are welcome.
“Alyson is really good at doing Hula Hoop tricks so she will be there to give advice and show people how to do things if they want,” Natalie said.
“Once you get the whole jist of it it’s really not that hard,” Alyson said. “The myth people have when they first stop hooping is that you have to hoop fast. It’s actally the opposite ... you’re supposed to go real slow. It becomes a part of you and it’s like an extension of your body.
Natalie said she views Thursday night’s event as a test run for more possible Hula-Hoop events in the future.
“I know a lot of people like to do it and they might not know each other, so this might be a good idea to meet and do other hooping events in the future,” Natalie said.
“I’d like to do it whenever I can. It has to be a time when there’s no artwork up because the hoopers throw the hoop up in the air,” she added.
Alyson said an indoor hooping space is ideal for the long winter months that make it difficult to do the typically outdoor activity.
Thursday’s event runs from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and costs $5 to get in. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own Hula-Hoops, though Natalie said she’ll have a few extra on hand for those who need them. For more information, call 523-0068 or search “Project 308 Gallery” on Facebook.IF YOU GO • WHAT: Hula Hoop Night at Project 308 Gallery • WHEN: 7-9:30 p.m. Thursday • WHERE: 308 Oliver St., North Tonawanda • COST: $5 • MORE INFORMATION: Call 523-0068 or visit the gallery's Facebook page. Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.