BRISTOL — Rolling effortlessly through the skatepark off West Street in downtown Bristol, rising Mount Abraham Union High School junior Sean Wood and his friends popped, kicked and flipped their skateboards through the warm morning air.
They were polishing up their best tricks in preparation for the third annual BYOBacon Skateboard Competition at the Bristol Skatepark on Saturday, July 14. Organized by The Hub Bristol teen center, local teens and volunteer Jason Fitzsimmons, the competition is free and open to all ages.
In 2010, Jim Lockridge, director of The Hub, sparked the idea for BYOBacon when he approached local skateboarders and 2007 Mount Abraham graduates Bryn Paul and Fitzsimmons. Lockridge wanted them to organize and promote a statewide skateboard competition.
Bristol’s Fitzsimmons, who volunteered at The Hub and was working on a Facebook page and website to consolidate information about Vermont skateparks, was thrilled by the proposition. He marinated on it and cooked up the name BYOBacon Skateboard Competition. Paul liked the name, and the two ran with it.
In the competition’s first year, Paul and Fitzsimmons were blown away by the turnout — almost 60 skateboarders from across the state showed up. Last year, said Fitzsimmons, the turnout was about the same, but the audience more than doubled. He and the local teens, who have maintained the park over the past several years, are hoping that this year will see the biggest turnout yet.
Lockridge is pumped about the upcoming event.
“It brings some real-world excitement to a space where local kids have defined their skateboard interests,” he said. “It gives them a chance to interact with skateboarders of all levels from across the state and brings new style, ideas and economic contributions to the town of Bristol.
“It’s an opportunity to bridge communities together, to expand the world for kids living in Bristol and to share in something that’s positive from beginning to end.”
One quirk the organizers hope will change this time around is that in its first two years the BYOBacon event has not drawn a female competitor. Fitzsimmons has issued an open invitation to them.
“There are some girl shredders who are way better than I am, and we’d appreciate if they would come down here and represent,” said Fitzsimmons. “If enough girls wanted to come, we’d even create a separate girls’ event if they want.”
The Bristol Skatepark, which is right next to the high school, features a half-pipe; a range of ramps, boxes and rails; and a number of mobile units that skaters can use to easily and quickly reconfigure the park. Over the past couple of years, said Fitzsimmons, the teens and the teen center staff have made a lot of improvements there.
“We expanded the skatepark and made it double the size,” said Fitzsimmons. “Last year, we put new coating on that’s smoother and safer, and we did a bunch of repairs. This is a skatepark that’s always improving — its face changes every year.”
Lockridge said the skatepark is one of the teen center’s main attractions, and The Hub supports local teens and community members who want to use it.
“The skatepark is the focus of intense investment as a program, knowing its value to the kids in the community and knowing what it means for meeting their interests,” he said. “Kids with skateboards are doing something healthy and we want to support that and play into their interest as much as possible.”
The annual BYOBacon event takes that goal a step further, Lockridge said.
“Having this competition is a cherry on the cupcake. It’s really what you do when you’ve got what we’ve got. We have a very recognizable landmark skatepark that pros are traveling to from across the state,” he said. “And we have that because the kids want that, they’ve built that, and the Hub has supported them in doing so.”
Wood, who skateboards at the Bristol park almost everyday, is excited to share his favorite hangout with others and showcase the improvements he’s helped make.
“I think the competition gets a lot more people involved with skateboarding and lets a lot more people know about the Bristol Skatepark,” Wood said. “It was a lot of fun the past two years, and it’s a great place to gather with everyone.”
Last year, the BYOBacon competition wasn’t much more than a little blip on Fitzsimmons’ radar screen. Paul had moved to Johnson and wouldn’t be able to help anymore. And nobody at other parks seemed to know about the contest.
But then, after last year, things began to change. Local kids started asking about it, and when Fitzsimmons went to other skateparks people knew about BYOBacon.
“This year all of the kids were begging me to keep on doing it,” he said. “Last year you’d drop the name BYOBacon and skaters would say, ‘Isn’t that in Rutland?’ But this year I go to a skatepark in the Burlington area and ask, ‘Have you heard of BYOBacon,” and people say, “Yeah man! That’s that crazy competition over in Bristol!’”
“It’s good to see people are really enjoying it,” he added. “So I think I’ll be organizing it for quite a while.”
This year’s competition will be broken into two main age groups: 17 and under, and 18 and older. For each age group, there will be a street competition, which utilizes the full skate park, and a half-pipe contest that uses the vertical ramp.
Prizes range from skateboard decks to clothing to gear to bacon.
“If you win in a contest you get bacon,” said Fitzsimmons. “It’s a smaller prize, and last year nobody wanted it. If you don’t plan on winning, we tell people to bring your own bacon.”
One of the best parts about the competition, touts Fitzsimmons, is that it’s completely free.
“It’s free to enter — absolutely free,” he said. “For a lot of competitions, people come out and pay money. But this isn’t a business of profit. My goal for the skate competition is to get people here ... People come and they ride it, and they love it.”
Free food will be available, and several Vermont skateboard businesses and food vendors will be on site, too.
From the competition’s outset, South Burlington’s Talent Skate Park and Vermont Skateboards, a skateboard company based in the Burlington area, have sponsored the event, along with other businesses, like Burlington’s Ridin’ High skateboard shop.
After the BYOBacon contest wraps up, sponsored skateboarders from Vermont Skateboards and anyone else who wants to enter can pay $10 to compete in a “Game of S.K.A.T.E.”
The game is played much like the traditional basketball game H.O.R.S.E. The way it works is one person leads off and does a trick and the others have to do the same trick or they get a letter. Once a skater gets five letters and spells the word “skate,” he or she is out.
Registration for the competitions begins at 11 a.m., and the younger skateboarders will drop in at noon.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].