Pictured Above: Volunteers work to fix the decks on Greenport’s skate park. |. Greenport Skate Park Project photo
Greenport’s Polo Grounds on Moore’s Lane will be filled on Saturday, Aug. 6, with a celebration of skateboarding culture not seen there in more than a decade, as the Greenport Skate Park holds its first-ever Sound & Skate Festival from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The village’s skate park in the Polo Grounds, built about 25 years ago, had fallen into disrepair in recent years — it had been more than a decade since community members rallied to fix it up when a new wave of civic-minded residents began talking about holding a skate festival there in 2019.
Rena Wilhelm is the chair of the Greenport Skate Park Revitalization Project, the volunteer community group that is putting together the festival.
Though she doesn’t have any children or skateboarders in her family, she was inspired by a plea several years ago from an 11-year-old boy, Dane Jensen, who asked his mother to share photos of damage and graffiti at the skate park on the Let’s Talk — Village of Greenport Facebook page.
“My heart broke for him,” she said. “I have a business in town, The Weathered Barn, and sometimes businesses in the local community are divided — the community feels like all the attention goes toward downtown and tourism and the kids don’t get the attention they need.”
Some other like-minded individuals remembered an effort around 2008 to hold a festival to try to revitalize the park, and they began planning in late 2019 to bring the festival back.
But Covid interrupted their plan, which proved to be a blessing, giving them two years to put together a blockbuster festival this August.
“The skate park is a 20,000-square-foot postage stamp part of this larger Polo Grounds, and we’re using almost the entire field to house about 100 vendors, eight live bands playing all day, skate contests, and we’re also having a 25-person mural and graffiti artist competition, with artists from Long Island and New York City, some of whom are very well known,” said Ms. Wilhelm.
Admission to the festival will be free, but donations will be accepted at a vendor booth for the Revitalization Project.
“Part of the mission is not just to focus on the athletic part of the skate park, but also on music, fashion, art, and the entire culture that surrounds skateboarding,” she said. “Seventy-five percent of the vendors are artists, and the mural artists in the competition are very, very talented. Some very versed in urban and street art, some are gallery artists.”
There’s been talk on the Let’s Talk — Village of Greenport Facebook page about graffiti that has recently been popping up on the skate park — with some people arguing that graffiti is a part of skate culture, and some who see it as no more than vandalism.
Ms. Wilhelm is in the court of skate park believers who sees the graffiti there now as vandalism.
“People say graffiti goes with skateboarding culture, but, especially when it’s on the surface of the ramps, it becomes a distraction to people skating and it messes with their depth perception.”
“The festival will showcase what it’s like to see real graffiti artists, not vandalism,” she said, adding that ultimately there will be a place in the park where people can express themselves without vandalizing the skating surfaces.
“People have to let us get the basics done before we can add on other attractions,” said Ms. Wilhelm, adding that stabilizing the concrete right now is much higher on the priority list than providing areas for artistic expression.
The festival is family-friendly. Skaters of all ages are welcome, and no alcohol will be served. The music portion of the program ranges from folk to heavy rock, punk and ska, with bands including The Crushing Violets, Clover’s Curfew, Moose Creek Park, Scared 20, The Knottie Boys, Pant and Faces and Ages.
“It’s a nice range,” said Ms. Wilhelm. “We want a little something for everyone.”