INNISFAIL – There was plenty of tricks and attitude going on at the local skatepark for the recent first-ever Innisfail Skatepark Trick Competition.
But it was also an event to solemnly remember former Innisfailian Josh Burns, whose life at the age of 19 was tragically taken away on July 4 while working at a Sundre restaurant.
The local teen learned how to skateboard on a borrowed board from the Innisfail Skatepark.
“Josh would come by (the skatepark) and he was just learning how to skateboard but he would borrow boards from people that are around here,” said Kane Williams, recreation program coordinator for the Town of Innisfail. "Jayce Downs, the skatepark ambassador, would loan out his board to him. Josh was just developing his skills but he would use it and learn how to skate on it.
“In memoriam for Josh Burns we are raising money to buy skateboards that can be loaned out and eventually given away to new skaters at the Innisfail Skatepark,” added Williams. “We wanted to raise money so that we could give our skateboards to people that need them. That was something that was important to Josh when he was here.”
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A first-degree murder charge into the death of the Innisfail High School graduate has been laid against 27-year-old Solaimane Elbettah. His next scheduled court appearance is Monday, Aug. 15 in Didsbury provincial court.
The Innisfail Skatepark Trick Competition in Innisfail on July 30 was also the official grand opening of the million-dollar local skatepark, which was completed in late 2019. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic no official grand opening was held until the trick competition.
The trick competition was held under perfectly blue skies, and welcomed a big crowd of about 150 competitors and local citizens in an atmosphere that has never before been seen in the skatepark’s three-year history.
The competitors included boarders from Innisfail, Medicine Hat, Sherwood Park, Red Deer, Edmonton and Calgary.
Participants eagerly paid $10 or $20 registration fees to compete in the event, which was sponsored by Innisfail’s Field and Forge Brewing Co., Sylvan Lake’s Savage Four Ride Company and Red Deer’s Industry Skate & Snow.
As loud music blared non-stop, boarders were dutifully stoked to give their best to wow the judges with their best and most well-executed tricks.
“We called it the grand opening because we didn't get to do one when it opened three years ago. OK, so this is like the grand opening rebate,” said Jayce Downs, the Town of Innisfail’s skatepark ambassador for the summer, and the July 30 event’s main organizer and planner. “This is a well-respected park.”
Downs added the quality of the park, and cash prizes from a pot of up to $1,500, offered plenty of incentive for competitors who registered in either two types of beginners' competitions, or intermediate ones for both girls and boys, or the open class - the “best of the best.”
“We were weren't 100 per cent sure how things were going to look. This isn't exactly how we planned it,” said Downs. “It had to be changed as we got registration. But now we know there's interest in it. We know it'll grow. It seems to be going well. People like it. And yeah, kids always want to come back and do more stuff next year.”
Also attending the July 30 event was Town of Innisfail Mayor Jean Barclay.
She called the skatepark competition a “fantastic event” for the town, which she added has become an important all-season destination for many out-of-towners to take in the town’s wide range of attractions and events.
“We've had two years of COVID restrictions and people are excited to get back out in the community. I think we've seen overwhelming support for things like Canada Day, when Rotary served more than 800 people for breakfast,” said Barclay. “And then we had the Innisfail Lions Club recently hosting the soapbox derby, which was also a fantastic turnout, and now we have the Stanley Cup coming on August 8, the lantern festival and Kinsmen car show later in the month, and now we’ve got this.
“It just goes on and on and on.”