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GOING BIG IN THE BAY: Thrashing at Joannes Skate Park

GB_GoingBigintheBaySk8Pics_177BY Patrick Mares

This year’s sixth annual Going Big in the Bay promises to be bigger than ever. How big you ask? Jeremy Crees, Recreation Supervisor at Joannes Park can tell you what’s up. “Over the last five years Going Big in the Bay has become more than a skateboard competition,” Crees said. “The daylong event is now a platform for local and regional musicians, DJ’s, a park our group, artists, videographers and vendors to promote positive themes and actions. The event is not only a local competition where kids can showcase their skateboarding skills, but an opportunity to meet others that enjoy the culture of skateboarding.”
This year there is a scheduled appearance by Packer legend Ahman Green and live music by local band Dead Modern Villains. But the heart of the show has always been the skate contests, starting with the Long Ollie contest at 5:15 p.m.

The competitions go until eight, when the live music picks up. Through it all they’ll have activities for the whole family: face painting and balloon animals from 5-8; and from 5-10 the Slackyard bouncing Slackline, DJ LMNT, and activity booths, in addition to food and raffles. In all it promises to be an even bigger draw than last year.

But how did the contest get to this point? Crees told us the goal, from the first Going Big in the Bay on October 23, 2010, was to provide a showcase for the skateboard community and culture in the Bay Area. Surfin’ Bird, the longtime skate shop for the discerning local, had helped convince park staff to host a family friendly event to show off the local talent.

And Crees said, “What started with a simple plan to run a skateboard competition has become a Midwest Region phenomenon.”

The yearly fundraiser helps elevate the visibility of Green Bay’s skate culture. Which is an outlet that Crees suggests allows kids to, “be with friends, grow as individuals, challenge one another and dream big.”

And maybe he’s not far from wrong. How much closer can you get to the old fashioned, explore and play outside all day mentality these days? A skatepark can provide a safe place for the shenanigans that seem to be the victim of the busy schedules and ever growing number of video screens around us.

Whatever the case, Crees has a point when he says the skating community has often been rather under-served in the Green Bay area. Despite the ever-present Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video games, and the slightly more recent line of clothes, there aren’t many great options around here for actually getting out on a board yourself.

GB_GoingBigintheBaySk8Pics_071Joannes park itself had real trouble fielding a skate zone. According to the local historians at parchive.pivotrock.net, the idea was born in 1999 out of an attempt to re-purpose an old swimming pool, but it quickly lost traction. It wasn’t until 2001 that the project actually started fund raising. But the park cites a group of community advocates that have come out of the woodwork in the last five years of “Going Big in the Bay”: the local skate-shops; Green Bay Packers Brandon Chillar, Ahman Green, Jarrett Bush, Brett Swain and Al Harris; Emerica and Shake Junt; pro skateboarders Shane Heyl, Bryan Herman, Heath Kirchart, Bryan Westgate and 2010 Thrasher Magazine Sk8boarder of the Year, Leo Romero.

And while Going Big in the Bay has increased awareness of the sport in the community, other initiatives have taken up the banner. The Aldo Leopold and Preble summer school skateboard design program, Green Bay Action Sports Organization (GBASO) Wild in the Streets and Go Skateboarding Day have all contributed towards building our local skate scene.

Crees told us the staff at Joannes is still committed to improving the opportunities for local skateboarders, BMX, and other alternative athletes as well as offering high profile events for those throughout the midwest.

All in all, Going Big in the Bay been a bright spot for wannabe skate rats living in the shadows of a football town. The park tells us the event attracts between 750 and 1,000 skateboard enthusiasts from the Midwest each year. And in it’s five years, Going Big in the Bay has raised a total of $15,000 for the park through raffles and donations. A big part of that has been the support of the local community. Businesses and benefactors have picked up the tab for airline tickets, lodging and accommodations for professional skateboarders, autographed Packer jerseys, helmets, and footballs.

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