FORT FRANCES—While it may have been a competition, unity was the real theme of the inaugural Neil Roy Memorial skateboard tournament here Saturday.
That sentiment was apparent as more than 140 friends, family, and fans of the sport gathered at the skate park and joined hands in tribute at the start and end of the event, listening to the Ben Lee song, “We’re All in This Together.”
“I’m so proud that we’re all out here for Neil,” said his mother, Patsy.
“It’s so good to see the kids come out and do their stuff. It’s wonderful,” she added. “It’s going to get bigger and better.
“I’m so proud of them—I just want to give them all a hug.”
Roy recalled how she worked on the skate park committee for years to see the local park become a reality for her son, Neil, and other local skateboarders, and now was there Saturday paying tribute to him.
Roy added she’s been impressed with the artwork adorning the skate park in memory of Neil, one of two local teens killed in a single-vehicle accident last month, and thanked the artists.
“It’s cool,” said Neil’s brother, Derek, when asked about how he felt about the inaugural competition. He had considered skateboarding in the event but opted not to at the last minute.
Normally a skier and snowboarder, it would, after all, be his first time on a skateboard.
Skate park committee chair Rob Tovey, who co-organized the competition with Patsy Roy, said he was expecting more participants but was very pleased with how it all turned out.
“Our focus was to do something for the kids and make it fun. I think they had a good time,” he remarked. “We tried to keep it moving, so for spectators there was something pretty much going on all the time.
“Next year, we will definitely be bigger and better,” added Tovey. “We had four parents sign up for a committee [to organize a skateboarding competition] for next year.
“We’ve gone from Patsy and I—there were more than Patsy and I, but we probably did about 90 percent of this—to next year where we’ll be able to able to share it amongst five or six people.
“We’re start working on it in June and have it in August,” he added. “We’ll advertise it and have a professional troupe come in for a demonstration and whatnot.”
As for the competition itself, two dozen district skateboarders showed off their skills on the landscape of the skate park, which only opened in late 2005.
Skateboarders competed in three divisions: age eight-12, 13-15, and 16 and over. The first two divisions each had seven skateboarders compete in a single 10-minute flight, with the top few from each coming back for a skate-off round.
The 16 and over division saw two flights of five skateboarders. The top two from each of those then came back to skate a second and final round together.
Seth Bird took the top prize in the eight-12 division, Josh Strain was voted the best among the 13- to 15-year-olds, and Darren Cottam captured the 16 and over division, with Tyler Kinnear being the runner-up.
All the winners got a trophy and skateboard deck, the latter purchased from Skates & Blades here.
“It was good experience,” said Strain. “There was good competition, like Jake Maki, Justin LaFreniere, and Tyler Bagacki.
“It was good just to be out here, even if there wasn’t a competition. It was great fun,” he added, noting he would like to see it continue “for many years to come.”
“It was just fun to come out in memory of our friend,” echoed Kinnear. “It’s also good to get kids out to skate. It helps them get better.”
“I thought the event was good. It was planned out nicely,” said Cottam, who hails from Nestor Falls.
“I’m glad to see there were so many skaters. Lots of friends came. [Kyle Loyie] told lots of guys to come support us,” added Cottam. “I’m definitely back for next year—even if I have to travel over 1,000 km.”
Cottam said there’s no place to skateboard in Nestor Falls, so skateboarders have to make their own ramps. He and Loyie try to get to the Fort Frances skate park once a week.
“[Nestor Falls is] such a bum that they won’t make us ramps or anything. We get kicked out of every place,” he remarked. “It’s great to come here and do actual obstacles.
“We like this park.”
Saturday’s judges were Patsy Roy, Chris McKinnon of Skates & Blades, and Duane Cridland of Gillons’ Insurance.
“I thought it was awesome,” McKinnon said afterwards. “It was exciting. It seemed like with the music going, one kid would pull off a trick and it fueled the crowd and the other kids.
“It was one of the best spectator sports I’ve seen in a long time,” he added. “Even the little guys were really entertaining. I thought it was great.
“For a first-time competition, I thought it was a resounding success.”
McKinnon admitted that while none of the judges were skateboarding pros, after watching the five skateboarders go non-stop for 10 minutes during a flight, it was clear who showed off their skills and heart that day.
In between the first two flights of skateboarders, local extreme bikers Levi Morris and Kenny Westover wowed the crowd with some impressive tricks.
“They did a good job, those guys,” noted McKinnon.
Tovey said the tournament will include an extreme biking division next year.
< *c>Skate park fundraiser
In related news, Daylin James will be returning to perform at the Townshend Theatre here next Thursday (Oct. 4) with a double feature show entitled “Bits of Broadway” and “The Comeback King.”
For his first set, James will be performing a selection of songs from “Phantom of the Opera,” “Moulin Rouge,” “Les Miserables,” “Josh Grobin,” “Tom Jones,” and more in a special tribute to Broadway.
For his second set, James will slip into his Elvis persona for a selection of songs by “The King” he’s never done here before.
While James has helped out several charities at past concerts, proceeds from this one will go to the skate park.
Tickets cost $20 in advance, which are available at Gillons’ Insurance, Skates & Blades, and West End Motors, or by calling 274-7716.
They’ll cost $25 each at the door.
Doors open at 6 p.m., with the curtain rising at 7 p.m.
(Fort Frances Times)