SURGOINSVILLE — There’s not just one reason Hawkins County artist Kim Ward puts on a Highway Hula Hoop dancing performance on the side of 11-W in Surgoinsville every day.
She wants to stay fit.
It relieves stress.
She wants to inspire others to, if not Hula Hoop dance, at least be active and exercise every day.
She likes the attention.
She likes to make people smile.
It’s what she wants to do.
But more than anything else, Ward is building her strength back up.
Ward’s life changed in 2011 when a drunk driver in a Ford pickup struck her at a crosswalk in Alabama.
“I took the full hit of an F-150,” she told the Times-News last week. “It sent me flying in the air and I landed on my feet. I was really fit, I guess, is the only reason I made it.”
Since being hit, Ward has undergone two difficult back surgeries.
“I lost all of my body strength,” she said. “I do this for two reasons. To build my body back and for stress. You’d be surprised what those mountains (views) will do when you come down here.”
Ward has been quite the conversation piece in Surgoinsville since she took up Highway Hula Hooping in April of 2014.
In a typical routine, she Hula Hoop dances from her home on Whispering Oaks Drive down the hill to the Highway 11-W intersection.
From there she does about a 1.5 mile dance walk along the north shoulder of the highway as cars, pickups and tractor-trailers whiz by just a few feet away, ending up back at the bottom of her hill.
There she does a perpetual Hula dance beside the highway while “zoning out” to her music. The whole routine lasts about 60 to 90 minutes, although she has been known to stretch it out to two hours.
One question that’s often asked is, “Why the highway? Why not Hula dance in your yard or another private location?”
For one thing, nobody can see her from her house.
“It’s a lot better dancing here than it is up there (at her house), and nobody up there is going to see me, so they won’t do it,” she said. “I want them to do it. I want other people to start in. You should see me before I started compared to what I look like now. It is an amazing workout. Not necessarily join me, but do it. Get out and do something. Be active.”
Occasionally someone will stop to talk to her, take her picture or do a video.
She was delighted one day when a 9-year-old boy stopped with his mother recently and asked for permission to video her workout.
When she first started putting on her Highway Hula dance in 2014, the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office stopped pretty regularly to check on her as well.
Deputies were concerned about her safety, the potential for her being stuck by a vehicle, and the possibility of someone bothering her.
Ward said she assured the police she is safe. She carries police mace, and despite her spinning and constant motion, she’s always aware of her surroundings.
Now deputies just honk and wave when they pass by, she said.
“I'm pretty careful,” she said. “I’m constantly looking at this road when I’m doing this. I post my videos on Facebook, and everybody is worried about me. I say I’ve already been hit by a truck once. I’m watching. I pay attention to what’s going on around me. I’m good. I’m not going to get hit twice.”
Ward’s Highway Hula might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But it makes her happy.
“I’m not a young lady,” she said. “I won’t tell you how old I am, but I shouldn’t be doing something like this at my age. But it’s not a matter of age. It’s a matter of what you want to do.”