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A Child's Hula Hoop Contest Brought This Neighborhood Together

Apr 9, 2008
When I was just eight years old, my mother informed me of a hula hoop competition that was being held on a playground not two blocks from my house.

Having recently discovered the wonders that could be had with a tube bent into a circle, (You know - for kids.) and having recently spent hours playing with mine, I decided to attend the competition, sure that I would win it.

As my mother and I walked to the park on the nicest day of spring yet, with with my 'hoop' proudly in hand, I fantasized about the attention I would receive when I won the competition.

I assumed that I would win because clearly nobody was as 'hip to the hoop' as I was. I was the only kid I knew that even had one. As we rounded the corner onto the block that the park was on my jaw dropped in disbelief.

Not only were there more kids than I could count hula-hooping away before the competition officially started - there were BIG KIDS with hula hoops. I had no idea that I would be competing against BIG KIDS.

As we neared the park, my sense of dread only grew greater as I was able to see the competition that I was up against; these kids were amazing.

One boy was able to keep up a jogger's pace while keeping his tube at orbit around his waist. One skinny blond girl had three going at once - one on her waist and two on her arms. Another was able to keep the disc going with her neck alone.

It became clear to me that my practice may not have been sufficient. Looking back I realize that I probably spent more time throwing the thing with spin on it and having it roll back to me than actually wiggling my hips as it circled me.

Nevertheless, I entered the gates on to the blacktop where the competition was to be held. I jockeyed for my own personal hula-space. The event leader, who happened the be my school's principal, explained to us the rules.

We were to hula hoop as long as possible and the last person standing wins. Any interference with anyone's body or hoop would result in disqualification.

To top it all off, the person who wins the competition receives a $20 dollar gift certificate to the local children's bookstore. With that, she brought a whistle to her mouth, clicked a stopwatch and sounded the starting noise. We were off!

The sound and sight of a park full of kids spinning multi-colored bands with sand inside around their waists as they giggle and laugh is something that must be seen and heard to be believed. It is something that has stuck with me for my entire life and remains one of the first images to pop into my mind when I think of 'the joy of childhood.'

And though I didn't win that day, (it was the blond girl, who was declared the winner when the runner up, who happened to be her best friend, faltered at the 17 minute mark,) by the time the whole thing was over I didn't even remember it was a competition.

The point is - it was a simple hula-hoop that was able to bring a park full of strangers together for 17 minutes to forget about all the worries in the world and just shake their hips. So if there's ever a competition in your neighborhood on some beautiful spring day: do it. You won't regret it.
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