Skateboard contest will add spark to July 4 celebrations

Few things are as evocative of the American spirit as skateboarding and fireworks, and, thanks to the efforts of local skateboarders, BMXers, and young professional group The Commission, Rochester will be able to experience both at the same venue.

The Salute to the 4th BMX & Skate contest, noon July 4 at the skate park at Silver Lake Park, aims to give the Rochester public a glimpse into the city's talented skate and BMX scene while raising the skate park's profile before the sky explodes with color.

"I've never seen a city where they had a skate BMX contest at the Fourth of July event," says Kurt Hohberger, a local BMXer, event coordinator, and owner/editor of . "Having an event like this is just really good exposure."

The skateboarding and BMX contests are split into categories for beginner, intermediate, and advanced riders. Participants can preregister online at The Commission's website, , for a discounted price of $10, while entrants who sign up on July 4 will pay $15. Admission is free for spectators.

Sunny Prabhakar, co-event coordinator and member of The Commission, said that after his group raised $9,000 at a July 4 car and motorcycle show last year, they were given permission to organize other July 4 celebrations at Silver Lake. With an eye toward creating an all-day, family-friendly celebration, The Commission expanded the roster of events to include the car and motorcycle show, a 4k and 7k race, the contest at the skate park, live music, and children's activities throughout the park.


To get wheels rolling on the skate contest, Prabhakar, a skateboarder himself, reached out to some of the elders of the scene, like Hohberger and Collin Gaul, a local skateboarder and co-coordinator of the contest. All of them see the contest as an opportunity to generate interest in the skate park and the scene it fosters, which they describe as small but diverse.

"After Board to Death and Midwest closed their doors, there really hasn't been anything to keep the scene alive here in Rochester," Gaul said. "At Board to Death, we gave lessons and we also had concerts and other things to draw kids in and really show them what the skate scene was all about."

The organizers are also hopeful the event will spur action toward a long-anticipated expansion of the skate park.

"That skate park could be one of the best in the Midwest if they'd just finish it," says Hohberger, "People travel a lot in these sports and putting Silver Lake on the map would be pretty interesting for Rochester as a whole."

Gaul added, "Even with the amount of skateboarders we have now, it's busy. We've got bikers running into skaters, we've got scooter kids all over the place."

Prabhakar says he thinks action sports are an important aspect of the city and that the contest will give skaters and bikers a chance to show how they have taken care of the space provided to them. Keeping the space clean and clear of debris is already a part of the culture; skaters with brooms doing volunteer maintenance is a common sight throughout the skateable months of the year, and Gaul and Hohberger have independently organized park clean-up days.

"We recognize that it's our part as skateboarders and BMXers … to take care of the existing establishment," says Prabhakar.

In addition to the contest, the organizers have started building a program to offer free lessons for beginners.


"That way we have people on the back end of skateboarding to help keep everything going forward," says Gaul.

With more eyes on the skate park, Hohberger is hopeful that it will help people realize that the space is an asset to the city.

"That's the biggest goal of this event, is just get more eyes on the skate park, (to show) that it is a positive asset to the city versus just some place where a bunch of kids hang out and cause trouble," he said.

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