Jen 'Cookie Hoops' Cookson will be hooping with the masses at Starbelly Jam this weekend.

A hoop around Starbelly

Dancing with a hula hoop is all part of the music festival vibe.

Dancing with a hula hoop is all part of the music festival vibe.

And Jen Cookson, also known as Cookie Hoops, can’t wait to connect with folks attending the 14th annual Starbelly Jam festival. She’s been bringing her hoops to the East Shore festival for the past several years and has about 50 play hoops to share. They’re bigger and easier to manage because of their weight, making hooping accessible to everyone.

“I just throw them out on the grass and people can use them all day,” she says. “Music festivals were the birthplace of modern hoop dance.”

Hooping makes up a big part of the festival scene because it’s fun, easy to learn and makes people feel good. Studies have shown that twirling a hoop is mood altering, says Cookson.

“When people are hooping, their whole body is stimulated. It releases endorphins and increases the heart rate … if you hoop in both directions it stimulates both sides of the brain which has been shown to elevate mood,” she says. “It is such a simple thing but it does contribute to going to your happy place.”

Hooping is also great for health. Cookie started hooping in 2008 when she suffered from limited mobility due to back problems.

“I got a really big hoop to start with and it had such a dramatic affect on my health right away,” she says. “It’s so fun and it kept me moving when I couldn’t do a lot of other sports.”

Today, Cookson also facilitates Medicine Hoop Retreats and she explores the spirituality of hooping along with sacred geometry and connectivity to nature.

“It’s taken me in all kinds of new directions,” she says.

Cookie will be giving direction at Starbelly through workshops given on Saturday and Sunday including Hoops and Tricks along with Kids Alphabet Hoop Games. In the past, she’s vended hoops but this year she’s focusing 100 per cent on roaming and teaching hooping.

Being part of the Starbelly family is an honour for her.

“They treat me like gold and I feel like I’ve really grown as an instructor and a performer through that festival because of how much they’ve supported me,” she says.

This year’s Starbelly line-up includes Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, Blue King Brown, Antidoping, Aesop Rock and Buckman Coe.

This year’s festival will also showcase a great selection of Kootenay talent such as Cranbrook’s The Good Ol’ Goats, Nelson’s DJ Rippel, Bessie and the Back Eddies and Tofu Stravinsky.

For more information about Starbelly Jam, visit starbellyjam.org. Tickets are available at the Crawford Bay Park gates.