Skate Jam for the Skate Park-Ravenswood, WV
As I pulled up to the NYA hall in Ravenswood last Sunday, I noticed a small crowd had already gathered around the outside of the steps. A bookended set of quarter pipes, pvc rails, and some crates were set out, providing a pop-up skateboard park.
I was immediately taken back to my high school days, sitting around with my friends and trying to learn how to ollie. But unlike the way I felt in my high school days, at this hang out, I didn't feel like I had to impress anyone. No, here was a group of skaters and music lovers of all ages, getting together to support their community and their local music scene. All around, I knew I was in the right place.
Everyone seemed to have a place actually, as I set off to find Paul (Lemley, the main organizer of the show). People were trekking up and down the stairs, carrying music gear, skateboards and merch, all moving smoothly along while setting up a performance area for the musical acts. The hierarchy seemed so level, I initially had a tough time finding Paul, but was quickly and kindly pointed in his direction. I can see why I missed him: he was taking a quick break with his wife, watching the skaters ride and do their tricks. I was actually standing almost right next to him when I was watching the skaters, myself.
A friendly and unassuming fella, he quickly and easily opened up to me about being from Ravenswood, growing up in the music world, and wanting to bring that feeling he remembers so well, back to the Ravenswood area. Lemley has done his share of playing and organizing band shows-he's been playing for years, and has also been responsible for booking weekly acts for a venue in Delaware, when he lived there for a while. He enjoyed living in Delaware, but wanted to come back home to be close to his family.
Paul's younger brother Austin had been telling him he wanted to see more happen in Ravenswood...more music, an outlet for kids to do something healthy (like skateboarding) and something social. Paul and Austin (along with several other friends and members of the community) noticed the increase in cement (skate/bike) parks in the general area, but there wasn't anything like those skate parks close enough to Ravenswood for the younger kids (who possibly weren't driving, yet). It seemed like the right time to approach the right people, to see if a skate park could happen.
After several meetings with council members, a final location for the park was secured (where the shelter beside the Ravenswood City Pool is located). The Ravenswood Skatepark Project was created (and formed into a nonprofit). The task of funding and building began, and events like last Sunday's Heavy Metal Skate Jam have started happening, to bring awareness and support (both physical and financial).
The lineup for the Jam was impressive, with four bands rounding out the day. Almost Hell, Homesick, The Corinthian and Skincarver (all WV bands, to my extreme happiness) all put on great sets and had the crowd engaged and bobbing their heads. If you haven't had the chance to check out these bands yet, and enjoy hardcore, indie core, modern death metal, and/or supporting local music, you're missing out. But don't beat yourself up too much-more shows to come, for the skate park, through Paul, through Ravenswood, and with these great musicians.
Years ago, Paul said he would have run from the police (as skating can be seen as damaging to structures...and in an effort to want to skate with your friends, and nowhere to skate, a feeling of rebellion would brew). Now as he gets older, Paul says he's finding local council and authority figures want to help out and encourage a space that fosters community spirit and a healthy outlet for their residents.
One man, wearing khakis and a white button up dress shirt was leaning against the railing, watching the skaters and smiling. He didn't seem like he was getting ready to skate, and I didn't believe he was about to sing in the NYA, so I approached him to ask what drew him to the Jam. His name was Eddie Stewart. I found out he was a dad to two sons who loved to skate and play music, and he enjoyed supporting them (one of his sons was currently skating nearby while we were talking). When I asked if he was coming inside for the show, he said he was going to for a few, but needed to step out around 7, so he could preach down the street (he is the pastor for the Ravenswood Church of Christ). He did indeed come inside for the show for a while, still smiling and standing next to his son during the show (his other son was not there, that day).
This is what The Ravenswood Skatepark Project can provide for Ravenswood: A place where people of all ages can come together for skating, riding bikes, encouragement and community. This project isn't just for those of us who love skateboarding. It's important for the community of music lovers, skaters, and humans who want something better for their hometown.
The timing feels right to move forward with the skatepark. While it is a large project, Paul is optimistic they will be able to make the park happen. For those who would like to learn more about the project, go here: www.skateravenswood.org.
To help The Ravenswood Skatepark Project reach an important fundraising goal, donate to their funding page by Sunday night. Go here: www.gofundme.com/skateravenswood