I recently had the pleasure to attend the PlayThink Movement Festival at Homegrown Hideaways with about 115 others who converged on a holler in Kentucky to celebrate movement and flow arts. The main vision of this smaller festival was to help cultivate a creative and healthy community while sharing movement, mindfulness and fun.
The weekend started out with a small gathering in the middle of the camping area. We joined hands as we sat in a circle. After an explanation of the meaning of the word Om, everyone joined in saying “Om” as we started our journey into a more mindful and amazing weekend. We all shared our names, where we were from and what we hoped to gain from the weekend. My goal was to have fun and expand my flow. After all the introductions, the whirlwind of astounding classes started. Classes like “Hoop: Gravity Ain’t Got Nuttin'” and “Hoopin’ Amazons” tried to push hoopers to a new level. Both classes started with exercises that helped strengthen our practice like air jumps, one legged squats and balancing exercises. My body was sore the next day from some of these moves. I’m still trying out the wedgie and some advanced jumps with my hoop. The words and insights of the instructors touched every single one of the participants!
Since this was a multi-prop festival I was also able to explore other flow arts throughout the weekend. I quickly found out that doing so can sometimes help my flow with my hoops as well. Learning the two beat weave on poi meant that I was finally able to learn the two beat weave with my twin hoops. Many of the classes at PlayThink! were poi basics, bellydance, hoop yoga, spiritual hoop, twin hoops, yoga, fire fans, blues dance and so much more. It was a full and multifaceted event.
Three community meals were included in the ticket price and they were all cooked by Chef Josh Moore from Accent Cuisine. As a non-vegan, it was eye opening how filling vegan food can be. Meals were also a time where most of the camp was at the same place, spending time with each other. During each meal I made it a point to sit with different people too. Even if you were normally shy, the ambiance of the entire event was very open and welcoming. People would sit down and introduce themselves. Paige Hankla, PlayThink’s creator, flitted through the crowd making sure everyone felt at home. “I wanted everyone to feel welcome, like we were all meeting in our journeys as people who had something to share with others. It’s important to me for everyone to feel loved, taken care of, and full of joy,” Paige shared with me after the event. I think she got her wish. Another participant, Jessi Fehrenbach said, “ I believe that everyone who was supposed to be there was there for the debut of this festival. The smaller size of the festival in it’s first year contributed to deeper community development. It was easier to get to know individual people, less “faces in a crowd” and more “new friends.” It was great making new friends at PlayThink! and spreading the hoop love. I even taught a girl to waist hoop!
PlayThink! was also marketed as family friendly which was especially important to Paige, our PlayThink! creator. Paige explained, “I feel that is important to have children involved in a community setting at a young age and to have the chance to learn skills that were not available many years ago. It is highly important to teach children how to move their bodies, how to play well with others, and to be mindful throughout all aspects of their lives. I only wish that I could have had this type of environment introduced to me as at a young age. While I found instructors, volunteers, and participants of PlayThink! to be exceptionally inspiring, I can only imagine what a 5 year old sees.” I wish I’d have had an environment like PlayThink! in my life growing up as well. Many of the children ran free during this festival and participated in the classes they wanted to attend. Most of the children played in the creek and “guarded” the foot bridge (the password was peace).
PlayThink! was an amazing weekend for everyone involved. It was more than just hooping. It was a time to grow and make new friends and in all my life, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more welcomed and loved by everyone I met. As I hooped Saturday night away at the dance party with my LED hoop, I could feel my hoop dance growing in amazing ways. Most of the people that attended were deeply touched by this festival. As everyone packed their campsite on an overcast Sunday to head home, it seemed everyone involved was sorry to leave. Many of us hugged each other with tears in our eyes as we promised to come back next year.