A svelte David Swedlow demonstrates hula hooping technique during an event at the Region 10 Enterprise Center in 2011. Mirror file photo.

By Caitlin Switzer

MONTROSE—(March 2) The arrival of warm weather means more than just the start of another great farm market and festival season here in Western Colorado. It also means it’s time to break out the hula hoops!

For those who grew up in the 1960’s, the hula hoop will forever be linked to the Wham-O toy company and its  commercials. However, the popular hoop toys have actually been around much longer, according to the web site,, which notes that hoops could be found in Great Britain as early as the year 1300 A.D. and that early hoops were made from such materials as wood, bamboo, metal, grasses, and even vines. Wikipedia asserts that people have been using hoops for exercise and play since the fifth century in Ancient Greece, and that Native American Hoop Dancing is a tradition that incorporates multiple hoops and dancing to tell a story.

For modern Americans, the hula hoop craze can be traced directly to Wham-O Toy founders Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin of Los Angeles, who began manufacturing marlex plastic hoops in 1958 and obtained a patent on March 5, 1963. According to, Wham-O trademarked the name “hula hoop” and sold 20 million hoops during the first six months, for $1.98 apiece.

Here in Western Colorado, former Sherbino Theater owner and children’s theater specialist Shannon McCarthy is among those who have popularized the home-made festival style hoops, selling them from the Sherbino and at local festivals for years, and teaching hula hoop making workshops to those interested in creating their own from hardware store materials.

Artist Sarah Brewer has also helped to build enthusiasm for hooping in Montrose, by sharing hoop dancing videos, performing with hula hoops in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, and by bringing hoops to the ReneWest Interactive Art Crawl and to the Montrose Farmers Market.

For Montrose Farmers Market Manager Abbie Brewer, a mother of four and an advocate for healthy lifestyles, the hoops are a great fit.

“We will definitely be doing some hula hooping at the Market this year,” Brewer said. “I am not sure of the exact dates and times, but those who have hoops are always welcome to bring them out! It is about active living and having fun—kids really enjoy hula hooping a lot. We are really working with LiveWell Colorado, which encourages healthy eating and active living, and hula hoops are one way we can get people at the market to be more active.”

With three or four bands already lined up to play at the Market when it moves outdoors, hoopers and shoppers will have music to inspire them, she noted.

“This year marks our 35th anniversary, and we are planning a special booth for kids, called Kids Corner” Brewer said. “We are putting together hands-on activities, like bean bag tosses, and educating kids about seasonal fruits and vegetables.”

For Ridgway aesthetician and longtime resident Shari Braund, hula hooping has been a way to stay young and fit.

“I started when I was 40, 12 years ago,” Braund said. “I hoop whenever I get a chance—it has helped me in so many ways! Hoops have been my partners at music festivals when I did not have anybody to go with, they have helped me build my creativity, and helped my heart rate and my waistline. Hooping is great practice for belly dancing, and helps to release tension—it keeps me in touch with my feminine side.”