On August 7-9, 2015, the small rural town of Harvard, Massachusetts welcomed 416 registered competitors from 25 U.S. states, Argentina, Australia, Hong Kong and the Philippines into their midst for the 6th annual Central Mass Skate Festival, the biggest yet. Hundreds more friends, families, staffers, filmers and photographers joined them for this 3-day extravaganza of shred, featuring a downhill race, mini ramp jam, slide jam, downhill park, street course, big air and after-party. Although some months have passed since Central Mass 6, the stoke is still fresh and already frothing for Central Mass 7, Aug 5-7, 2016. Join me in a deeper look inside the 6th annual event from the organizer's perspective, myself, Mike Girard of Emgee Events LLC.
One of the crucial elements in the event organizing process is sponsor acquisition. Loaded Boards and Organgatang Wheels have been supporting Central Mass from the very beginning, and have been instrumental in advising, supporting and motivating the mission to grow the event from its humble 50-rider, 1-day beginnings to its current format. It was only natural to have Loaded and Orangatang back on board in "Harvard Hero" Presenting Sponsor positions, leading the charge for radness, and joined by a strong fleet of brands that support and believe in grassroots events, community growth, and the sustainable progression of skateboarding and longboarding. Let me start by warmly thanking all the brands that supported Central Mass 6. The event would not be possible - and not anywhere near as rad - without the support that these brands provide, and I urge you to support them in return. THANK YOU: Loaded Boards, Orangatang Wheels, iNi Cooperative, G-Form Impact Protection, S1 Helmets, Paris Trucks, MIDS, Bear Trucks, Original Skateboards, RDVX Grip, Comet Skateboards, Narragansett Beer, Vita Coco Coconut Water, Thuro Skate & Snow, NOTB Skateshop, Community Bikes & Boards, Brew Headwear, Eastern Boarder, ENO Hammocks, Forsake Footwear, and Tecnu Poison Ivy Prevention; additional thanks to our official media partner Wheelbase Magazine, and our food & beverage partner, the Harvard General Store.
(I'll go into some of the event preparation, and hope you'll find it interesting. If not, feel free to scroll ahead to the action!)
For the first 5 years of Central Mass, I aggressively grew the scope of the event. From 1 day and 1 hill, we expanded to 3 days across 4 venues, adding a bevy of ramps, rails, a half pipe, live announcing, DJing and a big after-party. After 5 years, it felt like we had hit our stride, and we were maxing out available road closure time and space each day. I was very happy with the general format, so rather than risking over-expansion or tempting fate with the town, I decided to take the Central Mass 5 model and make it as good as possible. The goal: To cater to all skill levels, all disciplines, all ages, and all genders, and offer as much fun and value possible to everyone in attendance.
One of the most unique things about Central Mass is the hay bales. We make 100% of our own hay right here in town. Back when I was running my landscaping company, I met a local farmer who had a hay operation to supply local horse farms with Harvard-grown hay. We had a sponsor provide hay the first few years, but when that connection moved out of state, I reached out to the local farmer to inquire about buying his hay for Central Mass 4. That year, it was a normal transaction. I paid him per bale, and picked it up from his barn. At Central Mass 5, I helped with some of the haybaling process in order to get a discount. For Central Mass 6, I was given full autonomy to make my own hay, from start to finish, for an even deeper discount. I made the following video to show the many steps in the peaceful, time-consuming process: https://www.facebook.com/skatecentralMA/videos/924448447577660/
Once you've mowed, "tedded" (spread to dry 3 times) and raked the hay into rows, the final step is to churn out the bales, stack them on the tractor's trailer, and then re-stack them into storage. I contacted some local friends to help with these last steps, which require the most manpower.
Everything was smooth sailing until later in the day. After an exhausting few hours, the homies needed to head out, but the hay wasn't yet completely in storage, and rain was about to start falling. With daylight waning, it was up to me to finish the job. Stacking hay to 10+ foot height solo is a very challenging task, and my energy was dwindling. Near the very end of the job, an entire mountain of hastily-stacked hay tumbled and needed to be re-stacked. Although I should have been wearing pants, I wore shorts to stay cool... a major farming "no-no."
Growing ever more weary, I started to drag the stiff, bristly hay against my bare legs, inflicting scores of seemingly-innocuous small cuts into my shins, ankles and calves. I thought nothing of the cuts, until days later when my legs started to develop painful sores. They became so excruciating that I had to go to the doctor, who determined that I was infected with MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant strain of the Staph bacteria. I was riddled with several bad abscesses (concentrated pockets of infection), accompanied by severe cellulitis from my knee to my toes. It would ultimately take two ER surgical drainings, 3 days of in-patient hospitalization with heavy intravenous antibiotics, and a 10-day decolonizing process to prevent the already-serious infection from spreading further and jeopardizing my leg. The scars earned bear the lesson learned - I'll wear pants next time!
After recovering from the infection, it was time to move into more serious prep. I won't go into too much detail on the pre-event preparation steps, but these photos and captions will give you some slices of action behind the scenes. If you're interested in learning more about the organizing process, check out my Central Mass 4 Organizer's Recap.
After laying out Friday's plans and wrapping up the all-staff meeting, it was time for some brief shuteye before the next morning's early rise.
FRIDAY: MINI RAMP JAM & STREET COURSE
Friday brings heavy-hitting talent to the mini ramp jam. Rather than building our own mini ramp, we entrust the ramp duties to Waterville Parks. They run a rad series of summer skate camps, and have a beautiful 5'x16'x32' modular mini ramp available to rent. With an early morning start, Luke Mathison and his crew get to building, and by 11AM, the ramp is ready to test-ride.[Click to watch Thuro Mini Ramp Jam & Street Course recap video]
For the first few hours of the day, everyone who has registered for Mini Ramp can take as many (or as few) runs as they want, as well as sessioning the adjacent street course. It's a fun, free-flowing open session, with riders of all levels able to mix it up, enjoy grilled foods from the Harvard General Store and warm up for the afternoon's competition, if they choose to compete. Meanwhile, everyone who has registered for Saturday's race or Sunday's slide jam can also check in, submit their waivers, receive their wristbands and event tees, and cut down on rider processing times the next two mornings.. plus visit all the sponsors, and spectate all the rad ramp action!
Mini Ramp Jam Results:
1st: Eddie Henriquez
2nd: Nick Bratko
3rd: Bobby Hommel
After concluding the mini ramp jam and podium, it was time to clean up the center of town, grab some grub and prep for the rigors of Saturday's DH race.
SATURDAY: Downhill Race
Rising bright and early, we set back up in the center of town, prepped our brackets, staged all the road closure barriers, briefed the course marshals, police, ambulance squad and shuttle buses, and got ripping with our first practice runs. Riders who hadn't registered on Friday had a chance to check in Saturday morning, before and during practice runs. After some early carnage and a few rounds of warmup runs, riders got a hang of the course. We were ready to announce the Pro, Amateur, Junior and Women's brackets and move into racing.
AM, JUNIOR & WOMEN'S DOWNHILL
We started the day off with our Amateur, Junior and Women's division race heats. Racers compete in a single-elimination format in heats of 6. The top 3 riders from each heat advance to the next round, but the bottom 3 are allowed to keep sessioning the hill and using the event shuttles, provided there is enough time and space for those who are still racing. The mini ramp is also open all day for skating on Saturday. Even if you don't win the race, you always win the fun department at Central Mass. Enjoy some slices of the action!
With Am, Junior and Women's racing concluded, it's time to move to the feature presentation: the Pro DH bracket. Aside from Women's, Pro is the only DH division with a cash prize purse, and a very sizeable one at that. Find full Am, Junior & Women's results after Pro section below!
After spending the morning taking practice and freeride runs, sessioning the mini ramp, dialing setups, stretching out and getting hydrated and nourished by the Harvard General Store, the big-hitter Pros boarded the bus for their bracket.[ Click to Watch Wheelbase Magazine's Official Central Mass 6 Recap Video ] [Click to Watch Muirskate's Central Mass 6 Video Recap] [Click to watch Levi's hectic raw run] [Click here to watch all the Video Editing Contest finalists' videos.] [Click here to Watch Tom Leary's Official Central Mass 6 Promo Video]
- Junior (watch photo-finish Finals Raw Run):
1st: Josh Neuman
2nd: Robert Burns
3rd: Tyler Kaminski
1st: Eli Healy
2nd: Liam McHale
3rd: Anthony Cafiso
1st: Emily Pross
2nd: Candy Dungan
3rd: Magda Blanc
1st: Grant Kiessling
2nd: Brent Dubendorf
3rd: Luis Marrero
Although the race was over, the day's excitement had not yet run its course. Hard-working volunteers schlepped haybales back into the shuttle truck and re-placed them on the slide jam hill down the road. Meanwhile racers, spectators, friends and family headed back to the hotel to get washed up and prepare for the evening's after-party at the Billiards Café, sponsored by Narragansett Beer. Ferried by shuttle bus to and from the Marriott, attendees were in for a treat. DJ Ari "Shark" Chamasmany would bring an evening full of delicious danceable jams, entertaining overflowing crowds of skaters who reminisced about the day's adventures and shared stoke in anticipation of Sunday's Slide Jam. Marcus Bandy premiered Wheelbase's Keep On Tuckin' Tour short film, and before we knew it, the bar was closing and it was time to head home and prepare for Sunday's slide jam. Unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately - we don't have any photos from the after-party, but we'll make sure to fix that at Central Mass 7!
SUNDAY: SLIDE JAM
Seemingly before we'd even had a chance to close our eyes, we had to wake up, rally the staff, load up the ramps and head to the slide jam hill. Eyelids were heavy but the work had to be done, so off we went! While one crew ferried loads of ramps to the top of the slide hill and starting layout out the course, other crews finished transporting and placing hay, road closure cones and barriers, trash barrels, registration and sponsor tents, food, drinks and the ambulance squad.
With the framework in place, we began to process riders, who could take practice runs after checking. Once all riders were registered and assigned to a "pool," everyone assembled for the Rider's Meeting. With 275 slide jam participants, particular rules for hiking, spectating, dropping in, crashing and photography / videography are necessary to minimize carnage. Our ambulance squad is extremely talented, but they can't perform miracles. After reviewing all the rules and recommendations and thanking the sponsors, it was time to shred!
Slide Jam Results:
1st: Zakk Hall
2nd: Tyler Desmarais
3rd: Norman Plante
1st: Micaela Wilson
2nd: Laura Nocka
3rd: Lily Parla
1st: Robert Burns
2nd: Jake McKenna
3rd: Ethan Ledger
1st: Dax Pradarits
2nd: Sam Flint
3rd: Levi Green
- Longest Heelside:
- Longest Toeside:
- Biggest air:
1st: Brian Bishop
2nd: Eddie Henriquez
After putting the lid on Central Mass Skate Festival's biggest, best-ever Slide Jam, it was time to clean up shop. We removed ramps from the road, picked up trash, broke down tents, cut down banners, packed up prizes and sound equipment, and shuttled everything over to the center of town for the podium ceremony. The fantastic Harvard Ambulance Squad was thanked for their service, having treated dozens and dozens of small abrasions, bruises and other minor injuries, and the Police detail debriefed and disbanded once the road cleared. Our fearless photographer Khaleeq Alfred could not make it to the podium ceremony, but we have one picture to commemorate the occasion. Victors were crowned, cash, custom medals and gear prizes awarded, and much clapping, hugging, high-fiving and cheering brought a merry end to the absolute whirlwind weekend that is Central Mass Skate Festival.
As the ceremony wound down, weary competitors, friends, family and sponsors hopped into cars and went their separate ways. The remaining staff cleaned up the scene, broke down the headquarters tent and returned to the Girard household for a Chinese food feast. The next day, we removed and disposed of our hay (intact bales went to a local horse stable; loose hay became mulch for a local farm); returned the ramps, rails, boxes and tools into storage; brought back the road barriers, road signs and traffic cones to the Department of Public Works; separated and disposed of all trash and recycling at the town Transfer Station; and returned the trucks to U-Haul. The event was officially, fully over... and it was time to leap into the Video Editing Contest, Burke Mountain Freeride organizing, and starting all over again for Central Mass 7 event preparation. We pow-wow'ed about what went well, and what could be improved upon next summer, and congratulated everyone for all the hard work and a job well done.
By providing something for everyone to enjoy, regardless of skill level, age or preferred riding style, I aim to help grow our skate community into a more well-rounded, interconnected, lasting and larger community. At best, we might reach these goals; at worst, everyone ships home with a positive experience, cherished memories, new friends, inspiration and stoke for next year. The ongoing growth of Central Mass Skate Festival is a reassuring, positive sign in an industry full of mixed signals, and I hope you'll join me along the event's ongoing trajectory.
Central Mass 7 registration begins MAY 5, 2016 at 8:00PM EST via http://skatecentralMA.com/registration. I hope you will join us at the 7th annual Central Mass Skate Festival, August 5-7, 2016! You can follow along the event's updates via the following resources:
- Central Mass 7 Facebook Event (RSVP!)
- Central Mass Skate Festival Facebook page ("Like" it!)
- Central Mass Skate Festival Official Website
- Central Mass Skate Festival Instagram Account
- #CentralMass7, #SkateCentralMA and #EmgeeEvents hashtags
I would like to reiterate all my warmest thanks to the amazing, broad, generous and talented support network that makes the whole event possible. Please read the thanks I shared with Wheelbase Magazine for their official recap:
I want to warmly thank everyone who banded together to make Central Mass 6 a success. My biggest thanks go to the volunteer staff for putting in hard and sometimes thankless work night and day—the event would be impossible without you (special thanks to my mom, dad, and girlfriend for helping endlessly and putting up with me at my best and worst); Thank you to the Town of Harvard residents, Board of Selectmen, and Parks & Rec for welcoming this event into your midst, and to the Harvard Police Department and Harvard Ambulance Squad for ensuring everything goes as safely and smoothly as possible.
Thank you to Wheelbase Magazine, our official media partner, or standing behind grassroots skateboarding and community growth, and to everyone who shares Central Mass 6 media and stoke via social media.
Massive thanks to our sponsors, whose contributions bolstered our event budget, stoked out our podium and raffle winners and made our $5,700 cash prize purse possible: THANK YOU Loaded Boards, Orangatang Wheels, I.N.I COOPERATiVE, Paris Truck Co., S1 Helmets, G-Form, BEAR Trucks, Original Skateboards, RDVX, MIDS, Comet Skateboards,Narragansett Beer, Vita Coco Coconut Water, Harvard General Store, THuRO – Skate & Snow, Brew Headwear, Community Bikes and Boards, NOTB Snowboards, ENO, Forsake, Tecnu, Kebbek skateboards, Illdownhill, plus additional hype and support from Omen Longboards and Muirskate.
Additional thanks to Eastern Boarder for loaning us some kick-ass ramps and spreading word of Central Mass to the local skate community; To Stefan Kaiter-Snyder for our awesome flyer and logo artwork, and Steve Fitzmaurice from the Mini Ramp flyer and Emgee Events logo; to the Harvard General Store, our awesome food and beverage partner, and Billiards Café, our after-party venue; to Doug Perkins for his expert audio work throughout the long weekend; to Zone Products for the beautiful event t-shirts; to MIDS for keeping it real; to Waterville Valley for the epic mini ramp rental; and finally to Dee Bus Company, Moore’s Lumber, NSC Sanitation, Mackay Hardware, ISS Online, Marriott, ISU Irvine, Cameron Frazier, Brian Cortright, Grant Kiessling, Printweiser, spectators, parents, and anyone else who helped contribute to this operation along the way.
Most importantly, thank you to the riders who spend their hard-earned money to register for Central Mass and who come from near and far to enjoy the fruits of all this labor! We look forward to seeing you at Central Mass 7.
#CentralMass6 Instagram hashtag - 1,500 tagged photos!
Hop in a time machine and check out the archives of my Organizer's Recaps from every previous Central Mass Skate Festival, since the very beginning:
Thank you for reading!
Organizer, Central Mass Skate Festival
CEO, Emgee Events, LLC