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Girl, 8, Steals the Lawn Games Show in Philly

Victoria Rowell introduces 8-year-old Joanna Veneziale at the Philadelphia Flower Show Sunday.

Victoria Rowell introduces 8-year-old Joanna Veneziale at the Philadelphia Flower Show Sunday.

On the compact platform meant for expert potting and pruning demonstrations at the world’s largest indoor botanical exhibition, an 8-year-old wasn’t about to give up center stage Sunday at the Philadelphia International Flower Show.

Shortly after authors Paul Tukey and Victoria Rowell took the stage to introduce their book, Tag, Toss & Run, that went on sale last week and will hit book stores in April, Rowell playfully instigated a hula hoop contest with audience members — offering a free book to the person who could keep the hoop spinning for the longest period of time. After two young children took their turns, Joanna Veneziale of Telford, Pa., quietly raised her hand and asked to play. Others lined up behind her.

As Tukey talked on about other games, the young girl kept her hoop going.

As Tukey talked on about other games, the young girl kept her hoop going.

A minute passed, then two, then three, as the calm, quiet youngster slowly but surely kept the hula hoop — introduced to the world in 1958 — twirling around her waist.

Audience members were introduced to hoop trundling, which predates the hula hoop by thousands of years.

Audience members were introduced to hoop trundling, which predates the hula hoop by thousands of years.

When it became clear that Veneziale was highly intent on winning the book, the authors switched gears and continued their demonstrations of old-fashioned games. They played everything from Frisbee, to Molkky, Follow the Leader, Hoop Trundling and Tepak Sakraw — while Veneziale quietly kept her hoop aloft and moving.

“Are you getting tired,” asked Tukey.

“I’m fine,” she said.

“She could be doing her homework right now!” said Rowell to much laughter.

Members of the United States Quoits Association then came to the stage to conduct a 20-minute demonstration of the lawn game that is primarily only played in the steel towns of Pennsylvania. Again, the young girl was unfazed by all the commotion around her.

Tukey reminded the audience that part of his goal in writing the book was to reinforce the idea that lawns should be used and not just looked at for aesthetic purposes. The safest lawns, he said, are the ones grown without toxic synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Rowell also told the standing-room-only audience that getting outside and playing games was an essential part of a healthy childhood. Both writers told numerous stories of growing up on a farm in Maine, where they helped grow their family’s food and regularly ate dandelions, purslane, plantain, wild strawberries and other so-called lawn weeds.

When the hula hoop final stopped twirling, the standing-room-only audience cheered loudly.

When the hula hoop final stopped twirling, the standing-room-only audience cheered loudly.

By the time the hula hoop finally hit the stage floor — after more than 45 minutes — Joanna appeared momentarily mortified. The audience’s roar and participation in an old-fashioned wheelbarrow race soon put a smile back on her face.

“All that time and she didn’t even break a sweat!” said Rowell.

With her hula hoop conquest complete, Joanna took her turn at wheelbarrow racing.

With her hula hoop conquest complete, Joanna took her turn at wheelbarrow racing.

Later in the afternoon at a book signing with Tukey, the founder of SafeLawns.org, and Rowell, the actress best known for her roles in Young and the Restless and Diagnosis: Murder, the hula hoop champion came by to get her copy of Tag, Toss & Run autographed.

“You were the star of the show,” said Tukey.
staroftheshow

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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