Memphis Hosts First Annual Fire and Flow Festival

Attention Mid-South friends and flowmies alike.  Are you interested in learning flow arts? Or perhaps you are ready to learn a new skill? If the answer is yes, I WANT EDM has some wonderful news. Memphis will hold its first annual fire and flow festival on April 27, 2019 at the Memphis Botanic Garden.

The Grind City Flow Fest is a full day of workshops designed to teach new flow props and enhance current flow skills; no experience required. Workshops will include professional jugglers, hula hoopers, acrobats, aerialists, yoga teachers and pole artists. Not to mention the daring fire instructors, who will be teaching fire safety as well as fire eating, and fire fans. Some of the biggest names in the flow community are travelling to Grind City to teach at this exciting event, hosted by Memphis’ very own hoop queen, Ellen Phillips. She has been hula hooping for nine years and she plays a pivotal role in the Memphis flow community. I WANT EDM sat down with her to find out what goes into putting on a flow festival, and what inspired her to start her own.

“I began hooping 9 years ago when my best friend showed me waist hooping, the halo and the vortex. I fell in love instantaneously. A couple of months later at a small music festival in Chicago, I was inspired again. I saw two girls doing a bunch of crazy tricks and really “dancing” with their hoops. That’s when I discovered there was so much more to hooping than I thought.”


She took her hoop addiction back to college in Chicago and then out to Los Angeles after college. It was in LA that she discovered her love for performing and could often be found on the Venice boardwalk, hooping in front of a band for tips. Ellen worked as the video and photo content manager at Hoopnotica and is responsible for several videos on their Youtube channel. She moved back to Memphis in 2013 and joined the teaching staff at Co-Motion Studio, which was the only all-hoop studio in the country at the time. Since then, she has witnessed the Memphis flow community grow 10 times larger over the past 5 years. She is excited to help start the first flow arts festival in Memphis and wants to thank everyone who inspired and helped her make this dream a reality. Some of her biggest influences have been hoop stars such as Morgan Jenkins and Grace Good.  Grace will be one of the instructors at this year’s event.

“Morgan Jenkins is my #1 role model in life and in the hoop community. Her creativity in her hooping and execution of her vision, proves that she is an unstoppable force. Also, Grace Good is a hoop hero of mine. She’s so driven and such a great performer. I’m also inspired by the show producers I get to work with here in Memphis.”

The flow scene in Memphis is amazing. According to Ellen, her social media is constantly flooded with Memphis flow artists absolutely killing it. They are a very supportive group, who can call on their “flowmies” for anything.

“Whether it is to borrow a hoop or a costume, or to help out with a choreographed routine or a performance, they are an absolute joy to work with and be around! You can tell our community is strong when it’s 75 degrees outside and you see us all flowing at Overton Park.”

 Why have you decided to throw your own flow festival?

“I was inspired to start something here in Memphis after I went to my first flow festival, Kinetic, in May of 2018. I had so much fun, met so many great flow artists and learned a handful of new props and skills. I immediately knew Memphis needed a flow gathering like this. The entire car ride home from Ohio to Memphis, I was planning this thing out in my head. But it all seemed to be too good to be true until the Memphis Botanic Garden signed on to host our inaugural year. We are so grateful that they are giving us their gorgeous space to try something brand new.”

Have you ever done something like this before?

“Not really… Most of my experience has been attending music festivals and local events here in Memphis. I’m also a full time production coordinator at Running Pony Productions so reaching out to people and coordinating productions is my job. Also, the staff at the Botanic Garden puts on several events in this space and are helping us with a lot of the planning.”

Can you give us some insight on what goes into throwing a flow festival?

“There’s quite a bit. We are a team of six, all with different strengths and backgrounds. All of us have full time jobs other than Grind City, so it’s a challenge getting all of us together to work on the festival. We have 1 day set aside every week to meet and assign homework to the group. We’re learning as we go along.”

Have you run into any obstacles along the way? If so, how have you overcome them?

“Yes for sure. I’d say the hardest part has been building up the festival’s image. I’ve never run a social media account like this before and can honestly say, I’m the worst at social media. So trying to build an audience and market a first-year event without any content to work with has been tough. We’ve been relying on our instructors’ posts for content throughout the week. We’re also working with little income. We know we’ll be in the hole after our first year. Hopefully, next year will be different.”

What are your goals for this flow festival and how do you plan to achieve them?

“The goal of the festival is to create a space in which all performance artists, beginners and experts, can practice their craft safely, under the guidance of trained professionals. We aspire to create a fun, safe environment that is optimal for both teaching and learning. We want to give people enough variety to try new things, but also not overwhelm them with information. Most importantly, we want our attendees to have the freedom to spend the day however they want to. We only see this festival growing bigger and better every year, and I’m confident we will become one of the top flow festival destinations in the future.”


Meet the rest of the Grind City Flow Fest team

Gabriel DeCarlo

Gabriel is a cinematographer at a local production company, but his skills go far beyond that. He’s a gaffer, an extreme DIYer, and Poi spinner. He has turned his midtown backyard into a gathering place where people can come to burn, spin, and socialize weekly to hone their flow arts skills in a relaxing and collaborative environment. When not attending shows of local musicians or flow artists, including his talented hooping wife Jennie, he can be found making music videos, building onto his home, or having a cold beer with friends.

Jennie DeCarlo

Jennie is a Memphis native who discovered hooping by accident (it’s a ridiculous story, just ask her). She grew up dancing. Her dance background includes ballet, jazz, lyrical and some modern. Being able to easily combine dance with flow arts has kept her creative spark alive. She works for Coquetry Clothing creating custom spandex clothing while running her own small business Nine Flow One, which creates flow prop accessories.

Nathan Reisman

Nathan is an Emmy nominated sound engineer for film and television day to day, but his love for music is the path that got him there. Nathan is an accomplished drummer and can even be seen walking around on stilts from time to time. Nathan enjoys travelling and going to festivals. He also gives back to his community by coaching 7th and 8th-grade girls soccer and supporting the Memphis 901 FC.

Dylan Allemang

Dylan is a chief lighting designer with TNT Lighting and Sound. Being a California native, Dylan learned to surf and skateboard at a very young age. He made Memphis his home in November 2013 and since has become immersed in the 901 culture. Dylan is also an amazing fire poi spinner, although is very humble about it. Dylan will be handling all things pertaining to both stages at the Grind City Festival and is also on the Board of Directors.

Brittany Cox

Born and raised in Memphis, Brittany has been in retail management for 8+ years. She discovered the flow arts in September of 2017 when she was inspired to start hooping by fellow board members, Ellen and Jennie. Brittany is a trained vocalist and her passion for music helps her connect to her hoop flow. She also rocks at karaoke!

What makes Memphis the Grind City?

It’s the day-to-day grit and grind. It’s the hustle now so we can flow later. It’s that get back up again when you fall. It’s not being afraid to show who you really are. Grind City means you keep grinding till you reach your goal, even if it seems unobtainable. When times are toughest, look around and you will see you’re not alone. Someone will always be beside you. Together we make Memphis better. Welcome to Grind City, we can’t wait to flow with you.


Want to invite your non-flow friends and family to Grind City?

Check out the public showcase

After the workshops end, the doors will be open to the public for the instructor showcase and fire demonstration. The whole family is invited to see amazing performances by jugglers, hula hoopers, acrobats, aerialists, pole artists, and more. You will be wowed by the fire demonstration, featuring daring acts such as fire eating, breathing, and dancing. There will be food trucks, vendors, and live music to keep the whole family entertained. Local craft beer will be available for purchase for those 21 & over.


  • Workshop attendees get in free.
  • $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Children under 5 get in free.
  • Doors at 6 pm, show starts at 7 pm.
  • ENDS AT 10 PM.

*After party for workshop attendees and vendors only*

Workshop Schedule

Find more information on workshops here




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General info:
  • For location, parking, what to bring and what not to bring, click here.
  • Early Bird General Admission

$60.00 ea + Fees

  • General Admission

$75.00 ea + Fees

  • Showcase Ticket

$10.00 ea + Fees

To purchase tickets to the festival or showcase, click here.

Connect with the Grind City Festival