There are a lot of reasons why BMX jams and contests are awesome. We’re not talking X-Games and Dew Tours, we’re talking the smaller, local, less publicized BMX contests and Jams. Over the years, I personally have thrown around 15 or 20 jams or contests at a handful of skateparks around Minnesota. Some have been small, some have been big and some, like the 4th of July, do a lot for the local scene more than a lot of people might think. With each event, you get the opportunity to meet new people, expose people that aren’t familiar with BMX to the sport, spend time with some friends you don’t get to see often and most importantly, have an excuse to have a fun day for those people to enjoy. Over the weekend, we were involved with an event that really opened up our eyes as to just how beneficial it can be when the exposure to people that aren’t familiar with it can actually be. Let’s talk about this…
Let’s start things off with a little back story on the event we were involved with for the 4th of July…
Earlier this year, we were asked by The Commission, a local non-profit organization lead by young business minded and motivated adults that are looking to make some changes in Rochester, Minnesota, if we would be interested in helping out for a 4th of July event they were put in charge of by the city to organize. Since most of you don’t know, Rochester is a city that has some pretty substantial businesses in it like the largest non-profit hospital in the world, the Mayo Clinic, and one of the production head quarters for the computer manufacturer IBM. Because of that and a number of other reasons, the city has always been pretty conservative and there is a lot of people trying to keep it that way. With the city growing pretty rapidly, there is also a lot of people who are looking to open things up and bring some new life to the city with a less conservative agenda to make it more friendly for young adults and families. This event was designed to be one of those things to help expose some of the outsiders to let them see there are ways to have an event that is a little more edgy and still keep it family oriented.
As many of you know, one of the hardest parts about riding BMX and skateboarding is that it has a pretty negative connotation to a lot of the older generation that do not really understand it. In their eyes, it’s something that has destructive tendencies on public and private property and / or that people that do participate in either sports are not responsible, unemployed or trouble makers. Arguably, there is a case for both sides of this disagreement and it’s safe to say that argument won’t ever really be settled. However, there is more common ground to keep both sides happy these days. I mean, there are A LOT more skateparks and plazas in cities and towns all over the world because of that, that’s for sure.
Going into the months of planning for this event, it was pretty straight forward. We were going to drop a full day of events in on the highest traffic area of the city on the 4th of July to give people something fun to do that is entertaining and would also help local businesses and the city out.The main focus for this event would be a car and motorcycle show, skate and BMX contests and some live music to get the city together for the day with food vendors and more.
I’ve been seeing this kid cruising around the skatepark on this bike a handful of times this past summer. It’s always pretty crazy seeing kids send it on a bike that really isn’t safe. When he showed up to ride the beginner class of the contest, I knew there was no way we couldn’t give him this bike that our friends at Flybikes donated to us. He’s a little small for the bike right now, but the look on his face when we told him it was his was priceless. He was literally shaking and screaming “I’m the luckiest kid in the world”. That was more than enough to make that entire day amazing for everyone.
With roughly 30,000 – 50,000 people expected to attend the fireworks in that area, it was clearly a good opportunity to expose a lot of outsiders to BMX and skateboarding while showing off the lifestyle of it in a positive way. There was no way we would turn down the opportunity to organize part of this event. Plus, we had to make it is done right.
After all the meetings and planning, the 4th of July came pretty quickly and luckily there was a good crew of people involved to make the event happen. We, along with a few of the local skateboarders, recruited a handful of the locals to help clean up the park and get it all organized and set up. Even though the contest was the main focus, there was a bigger motivation behind the event — Getting the attention of the mayor and city council to show them that the skatepark needed some support from their end.
One of the most common things we hear when people say they want a skatepark in their town or city, or a better skatepark, is that they don’t know how to make it happen. Unfortunately, it’s not like you can just go to the city and say “Hey, we need a skatepark” or “we need new ramps, rails and ledges to ride” and they will just do it. BMX and skateboarding isn’t big enough that they can justify just dumping a bunch of money into making that happen just because somebody asked for it. So, making something happen takes some time, effort, a lot of work, careful planning and even more work. You need to be able to show the city or town leaders that this is an actual demand and that it has a positive impact on the community and people who will actually use it, not just something to dump money into it. That’s why having as many of the locals as you can involved with it can be really beneficial. Working together with everyone that is trying to work toward the same goal is going to make it a hell of a lot easier, that’s for sure.
Now, the whole point of this… Why you should throw a BMX jam or contest. BMX is unique because it’s one of those things where you can take it really serious, or you can make it as fun as you want it to be. There’s riders that prefer contests and there are riders that prefer the more laid back jam where everyone just gets together for a big session. Personally, we prefer the jam over a contest because it’s way less stress and less work. Either way, there are a lot of reasons as to why you should throw one.
One of the biggest things about throwing an event is that it gets people excited to ride. A lot of scenes can disappear pretty quickly unless there’s something keeping people excited to ride. Throwing events like this is a great chance to get people out on their bikes and reminded that they have a good time when they’re riding and spending time with their friends. A lot of people quit riding because they simply aren’t having fun with it anymore because nobody else is there to ride with them. Work, school, family and a ton of other things can take your attention away from riding, but having a good event can keep people excited to ride.
Another big reason is that it helps grow the scene. If you’re doing a big BMX contest or jam at your local skatepark, there’s a good chance a lot of people will be more than happy to help you spread the word. That will always get some attention from people outside of BMX. Have a grill out, bring in some music, get somebody on a microphone to help explain what’s going on and excite people. All it takes is one positive experience with BMX to get people hooked on it. I mean how many of you started riding because you saw how fun it looked and all you wanted was to ride after that?
It’s a great learning experience. Taking on an event like this is a great chance to figure out what it takes to be a leader. You will be the one in charge of making the decisions when somebody needs an answer, you will have to learn how to problem solve and you will quickly learn how to keep an event flowing along smoothly without having it all going to chaos, haha. One reason a jam is nice is because it’s more loosely planned where having a contest you have to have a pretty strict schedule to make sure you can get through the event. There’s nothing worse than a BMX contest that drags on and on for way longer than expected. It will take a few goes before you really figure out the tricks, but you would be amazed at how you can apply the things you learn to things outside of BMX.
Invite the local media out. Having a story in the news paper or on the news channel is actually pretty easy to make happen if they know the event is happening. BMX and skate contest are unique and not a lot of people know exactly what it’s all about, so it makes for a good story for them. Awareness in a positive light can be huge for the sport.”
You’re going to get peoples attention. If you’re throwing a BMX jam or contest at your local park, give the city a heads up, notify local media, have your friends share the crap out of a flyer on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., tell local businesses and see if you can get them involved some how whether it’s a donation for prizes or just to have them turn out and set up a booth. Spectators that don’t ride are going to be hungry and want something to do on the down time and having local businesses around can be surprisingly beneficial. Especially if they have food trucks or cool displays. Big events like this can get a local news station or news paper to cover the event. They need features and something like this is unique and original. Good exposure can really get the ball rolling if you turn it into an annual event.
If you’re doing things right, the people who work for the city will take notice. Invite the mayor out, invite the city council members. This past weekend our event was definitely on the mayor and city council’s radar. They wanted to see how an event like this can benefit the city. If you throw a proper event, make it pretty family friendly and you show the good that these sports can bring, they will be happy. When the mayor stopped by for our event on the 4th of July, I made it a point to introduce myself and thank him for coming out. The first thing he said was “This is incredible. I had no idea how much talent there was in this city for these sports.”… Having that kind of a positive impact on a decision maker can make it so much easier to get support for expanding your local park or just getting some new ramps built.
This little guy just happened to show up to watch the contest with his parents. When he was watching practice he asked if he could enter. You better believe he had a huge smile on his face when the crowd was going nuts for him. Who knows? Maybe some day he’ll be the next big name pro?
BMX is one of those sports that it is entirely up to you to make it be whatever you want it to be. You can set your bike up however you want, you can ride your bike however you want and you can ride your bike wherever you want. The same goes for events. You can make it into whatever you want and it could have a huge impact on the whole community, or it can be something small just to get a few of your friends together for a full day of good times. If you love BMX and you want more people to ride, doing something fun like this can be a huge opportunity to make it happen. It’s a lot of work and it’s not always going to feel like it’s fun, but once the event is wrapping up, you’ll be so glad you did it. Seeing everyone have a good time and appreciate the hard work is a great feeling. Anything you do to make something happen is a lot better than doing nothing and hoping somebody else does it.
With that being said, we know this isn’t the last time we’ll be doing a BMX contest or jam. We hope you are looking to do the same, because BMX needs anyone and everyone that’s willing to put in the work to grow and promote this little world of ours.
Big, big thank you to everyone who came out to the Salute to the 4th BMX and Skate contest. Huge thank you to the brands that helped sponsor this one — Fly Bikes, The Shadow Conspiracy, Subrosa Brand, Radio Bikes, Merritt, Kali Protectives, Profile Racing and Madera!