NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The largest crowd ever amassed at the North Adams skateboard park came together on Thursday to celebrate the third annual "Grill & Spill" skateboard event.
More than 50 skateboarders from all over New England took part in the event, which featured a Freedom Race, a Skills Competition, a free cookout and raffle prizes that all led up to the grand finale of the annual city fireworks after sunset.
It was the most people assembled at the skateboard park since its grand opening in June 2017. Held on a perfect day of weather for the nation's birthday, the event supplied an ideal atmosphere at the Noel Field Athletic Complex, as skaters enjoyed the expansive array of jumps, ramps and rails at the park. Attendees also joined in the fun at the newly-opened splash water park nearby, and later in the afternoon the North Adams SteepleCats began their baseball game at nearby Joe Wolfe Field as well.
"This feels amazing. I waited all year for this day to come," said event co-creator Zach Duteau, who was born and raised in North Adams. "We talked about it last year after we did a small thing and we wanted to do something big, so we knew that it was going to be something big. It turned out to be way more than we had planned on. It's amazing."
The Grill & Spill was started by Duteau and fellow local skateboarding activist Floyd Robinson, a West Virginia University graduate who moved to the area from New Jersey three years ago. What began simply as a friendly get-together between a handful of friends two years ago has grown into a full-fledged event, complete with sponsors and prizes. Thursday's success may only be the beginning to something that has grown like a boulder rolling down a hillside these last three years.
"This is a great start and it is nice to have a great turnout," Robinson said. "We were definitely nervous about how many people would show up, if it would be too few or too many. There are easily 50 skateboarders here. We're really hyped and the atmosphere is great. I'm able to get up there and bring the hype on the megaphone, and that hype is all for what the sponsors gave us. Without having them to have gear to give away, this wouldn't be possible. So we're really thankful to all the sponsors who gave us gear for free, and we also had the food for free. We are not here to get any money and we want to be able to give it right to the community and the skateboarders each year."
Once snow started to fall on the skate park this past winter, plans began to unfold to expand this year's summer event. In March, the planning phase went into action, and in June, they began to attract sponsors. A month later all the pieces fell into place.
"In the New England area, we knew we had to get BUI, because they are the main supporters of the skate scene," Robinson said. "BUI is Boarding Under the Influence and they are a deck company, and a lot of the kids out here ride a BUI deck. They also have clothing and apparel. From there we got one of the local shops, The Void, which is right on Main Street in Brattleboro, Vermont. They are a big supporter of the skate scene in the local area.
"We also have Tasteful Imports, a high-end brand of clothing that brings that upper-echelon of clothing to the skate scene. There were also a couple of local artists in Waffleworks Creations, Vinyl Cut and Girls Club Shred, which is a local club just for girls, and it is really cool to have some of the girls show up for the skate scene. We also have another great New England company that supports us in Lowcard."
Meanwhile, all the food was provided and prepared free of charge by Duteau himself, who is a cook at nearby Public Eat & Drink.
"I just like seeing everybody happy and enjoying my food," Duteau said. "I like making stuff and people like to eat it. It's a great day to skate and I just like everybody to come out and have fun."
While attendees and local families enjoyed the cookout together, the day did provide some quality competition that allowed skaters to put their skills to the test. During the tricks portions of the action, skaters were awarded prizes from The Void and BUI for performing difficult tricks on the many obstacles, ramps and jumps in the park.
The top three finalists for the Freedom Race also earned prizes, which were provided by The Garden, which is an apparel shop located in Pittsfield. After several heats through the bracket to determine the finalists, it was Greenfield's Taylor Wiles who finished first ahead of Chris Roach, followed in third place by Rocky Marcum. Wiles earned a new skate deck, Roach a new hat and Marcum a pair of sunglasses.
"We are all on the same team, so I see them a lot. Roach is an animal and he should have won it, but I got lucky," Wiles said of his close victory. "It's super nice out today and having all these people is sweet. Everybody is here together to skate, and we're having a good time."
The trio of finalists represented many others that also traveled from out of the area to come to Thursday's event. Attendees came from many surrounding cities such as Greenfield, Springfield and Brattleboro, but also traveled from as far away as New York, Pennsylvania and Maine.
"It's everything that I wanted to have happen," Duteau said. "I wanted the whole area to come together from multiple states, because this park is amazing and I want everybody to know that it's as amazing as it is. It definitely helps that all these people are coming from everywhere, video will be out, social media will blow up and people will see this and they'll want to do it next year. It just helps it grow."
Support from the business owners in the skate community is a huge asset to helping fuel the event, which in turn serves as a great reminder of the positives gained by having the park here in the North Adams community.
"I've been coming here for this for the past few years, and every year we kind of push it a little farther and make it a lot better," said Marcum, who is one of the original eight from the first year. "This is the one that we kind of took it there, and it is doing good. I love to see everybody come out for it. This is exactly what we need and we need it everywhere. This is all positive; everyone just comes together and it changes the community for the better. We're stationed up in Brattleboro and we're fighting that same good fight up there, so we're hoping to work with what is going on everywhere else and get everybody's attention to get something going up that way too."
The skate park at North Adams literally took decades of activism to be built, and even then there was skepticism that it would not be used enough to justify the funds it cost. Instead, what North Adams has seen is a park that is treated with love and care by a riding community that utilizes it year-round. Skaters look after the park and love it like their own, having already been recognized by City Hall for such efforts. Thursday was just another day to enjoy something they love in a place that they love.
"I feel like every park in every city should have a basketball court, maybe a tennis court, and then a skate park," Duteau said. "It's part of a park now; it's becoming something bigger and it's a really positive thing. It makes a lot of people's lives a lot better. It gives kids a place to go when they feel like they don't have anywhere else to go. I know that's what it was for me when I was a kid; skateboarding gave me a home where I didn't feel like I had a home."
The skateboard and BMX park has come to serve as more than just a place to skateboard or ride a bike. It serves as a lighthouse for surrounding communities that are less supportive of the skateboard community, and provides a setting for that community to have events like the Spill & Grill that show what their scene is really all about. Finally, skaters in North Adams have a home, as the world around them continually grows more encouraged by the positives they provide.
"The culture here in New England has just taken off. It has literally exploded," Robinson said. "When I first moved here and I saw this park was being built, I knew this was home. This park is where I met all of my closest friends today."
Writer Rick Duteau is a correspondent for iBerkshires.com and the brother of event organizer Zach Duteau.
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North Adams Rallies For Win in Rain-Shortened La Festa Baseball Exchange
By Rick DuteauiBerkshires.com Sports
NORTH ADAMS, Mass - North Adams struck just before Mother Nature did on Saturday night, as the local team rallied to a 9-5 victory over the Boston North End Dodgers, just before weather shortened the first game of the annual La Festa Baseball Exchange at Joe Wolfe Field.
The two sides met for the 29th straight season in the yearly event in which each club travels for a two-game series. Although Saturday’s action was halted in the top of the sixth inning due to a lightning storm that swept quickly through the area, the teams meet again on Sunday morning for the second game. North Adams will also travel east in August for a pair of games hosted by the Dodgers in Boston.
Things may have ended in a draw had North Adams not struck for its final scoring burst in the bottom of the fifth inning, as it scored four runs to break open a 5-5 score with the deciding margin of victory. Landon Champney got it going after he led off by slicing the ball past third base for a double, and he then scored the winning run on a throwing error after Tristan Garner walked and attempted to steal second to draw a throw.
The home team kept piling on in the fifth to increase its lead. Garner came in on a passed ball, Chase Vanderwoude walked and later stole home and Owen Gagne smacked a single past third, advanced on a balk and then crossed the plate following a wild pitch.
Heat index values are expected to reach 95 to 100 degrees this afternoon. Heat index values could reach 107 to 112 degrees on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon for most of Massachusetts, with values between 96 and 102 locally in the Berkshires. click for more
The city native was memorialized on Thursday with the unveiling of a bronze statue of two children reading a book set by the East Main Street entrance of the North Adams Public Library where she began her long career as a librarian.
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