- Associated Press - Monday, May 18, 2015

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - While at a music festival five years ago, Amanda Harris became mesmerized by hoopers moving gracefully as the bands played.

“I think my husband and I paid as much attention to the hoopers as we did to the bands,” she told The Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/1FcMKfM ).

After seeing so many tricks and choreographed moves, Harris bought a hoop and took to YouTube to learn the form of flow art.

“I was never athletic - actually, I was pretty clumsy as a kid,” she said. “I’m the youngest of seven, and all of my siblings were athletic, but sports were never my thing. The hoop is different, though.”

At first, Harris said she couldn’t keep the hoop on her waist, but as she worked at it, she got better. It wasn’t until she met an advanced hooper six months later that she learned why it had been so hard for her to hoop.

“She said the taller and heavier a hoop is, the easier it is to hoop,” Harris said. “She told me to try the hardest trick I had tried at home, and I thought ‘She’s putting me on the spot,’ but I did it perfectly the first time.”

Harris said her husband had worked in construction and said he thought they could get some tubing and make their own hoops. That’s when Chasing Happy Hoops was born.

“At first I made them just for us, and then I made some for friends - then I started making them for friends of friends,” she said. “Then it got bigger, and I started the Facebook page. I’ve sent them to California, Montana, New York and all over the place.”

Harris wraps many of her hoops in fabric because she finds it a more natural gripper than other materials, and since she makes mostly beginner hoops, the fabric helps hoopers keep a hoop on their bodies.

While most people think of the Hula Hoop fad that swept the nation in the 1950s, Harris said many big cities have hoop troupes.

“It’s hard to tell if I’m just more immersed in it or if it is really becoming more popular again, but it’s big in big cities,” she said. “There are also hoop festivals and a big online community for hooping. I hope to grow the business locally.”

An added benefit, Harris said, is that hooping burns seven calories per minute.

“It’s a lot more fun than hopping on a treadmill,” she said.

Harris said sometimes adults don’t think they can hoop, but the passionate hooper argues that anyone can hoop.

“Even my 60-year-old grandmother can hoop,” she said. “Kids can hoop, too. Actually, my husband and I did some mission work in Houston working with an after-school program, and we taught the kids how to hoop. I think anyone can do it if they have an outlet for it.”

Harris gives private hooping lessons and generally hoops for 30 minutes a day to work on tricks and specific moves.

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com

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