School is back in full swing and already there is a test. This time, it’s not a question of passing or failing, but of doing the best trick and bringing home the cash. So put down the number two pencils and break out the skateboards. Saturday, skaters of all ages and all levels are invited to turn out to the Martha’s Vineyard Skate Park, listen to some live music and hop on their boards.
The festivities start at one o’clock with a B.Y.O. barbecue and the live tunes of the Ballyhoo, an Island band fronted by longtime skater Brad Tucker. Local artists will be on hand to raffle off their work, with proceeds going directly to the skate park. A $10 entry fee secures a chance to compete in the trick contest and the best performer takes the entire pot.
Since the park opened in 2003, the Skate Park Association has hosted a wide variety of fundraisers to keep up with maintenance and save money to finish the project. They sell T-shirts and bumper stickers at the annual Tisbury Street Fair and the August agricultural fair. They have hosted small bake sales, big concerts at the old Atlantic Connection and an outdoor movie screening at the park. Saturday marks the first time that a younger generation has stepped up to the plate to raise funds for the park they skate. Tanita Macy, floor manager at the Vineyard Haven surf and skate shop, the Green Room, is helping to organize. “The twentysomethings are the ones skating every day now,” said the 23-year-old. “It’s their park. It’s really cool that they are taking the initiative.”
After almost eight years of planning and fundraising, the skate park finally opened to an eager public in 2003 on a small plot of land across from the regional high school. The park association raised all of the money to build the park and relied heavily on the goodwill of Vineyard workers and financial donations from Island towns and individuals to get the job done. “I remember when the kids would come in and grab a jar and just run up and down Main street asking people for handouts,” said Ms. Macy.
The park has been busy and crowded from day one. “It has been such a success,” said Nick Briggs, 28, an Island skater who worked actively to turn the park into a reality. “Every day kids are there. I grew up here and every day me and my friends were searching for something to do. This is a constant thing for them. It’s always there, it’s not expensive and it’s accessible to everyone. It’s a fun, safe place for kids to be active.”
The park is quite a scene and the crowd is as mixed as you can get. Four-year-olds with knee pads and helmets share concrete with teens. The thirtysomethings roll in after work to get their blood pumping and 50-year-olds are there practicing old school tricks. Parents stop by and bring lawn chairs to watch their kids show off on the mini ramps and quarter pipes. “We didn’t have any of this stuff before the park was built,” said Island resident and Green Room employee Lance Fullin, 20. “The spots we had around the Island were always getting busted. When it was built, we finally had a place where we could skate. When it gets that much space, kids want to go out and try it.”
Even though the park opened four years ago, it is far from finished. “We’re constantly trying to make it bigger and better,” said association vice president Erik Albert. And, the park has only gained in popularity. “More and more Island visitors are coming to the park,” said president Elaine Barse, owner of the Green Room. “Now it’s like, Flying Horses, Skate Park, South Beach,” she joked. Those involved with the park are excited about the crowds, but they make the need for more space increasingly important. Two of the park’s corners now sit empty. Future plans include turning the far right corner into a street course with benches and rails, but that takes money. “We still need help,” Ms. Barse said. “It will take about $100,000 to finish it off.”
Ms. Macy is working hard this week to make sure that Saturday’s event makes a dent. And, she is doing it in a way that only someone well connected in the twentysomething crowd could — by emailing posters to skate shops on the Cape and in Boston and sending out mass text messages. “We have a great park, it’s true,” she said. “Everyone will be there supporting a cool, local scene.”
The fun begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Martha’s Vineyard Skate Park across from the high school on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.