The Hi-Line’s most famous non-political son, Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament, returned to his hometown of Big Sandy this weekend to hang out with old friends and help out a pet project of his, Big Sandy’s skate park.
Ament was one of a few dozen skate park supporters gathered Saturday afternoon for a barbecue fundraiser to expand on the park he built in 2010.
“I had plans to hook up with some friends in Portland, and Jack Thornton called and said they were going to have a little fundraising jam here, ” Ament said. “So I called my friend Pete and a couple other guys … and we decided to come over.
“Little did Jack know it was going to be 65 degrees and sunny. ”
The beautiful weather met with the smoky odors of burgers and brats grilling and a PA system pumping some tunes, mostly Rolling Stones in their late-1960s sweet spot, to create a perfect preview of the nearing summer.
Thornton, the event’s organizer, was excited, not only about making a few additions to the two-year-old park — some flat cement for beginners to learn, “street-style” areas with rails and more wheelchair accessibility — but at the way the community, and Ament, came together to make it possible.
“It’s been a fun process, ” Thornton said. “A lot of people have helped out. It’s just a great community event. ”
Funds were raised through selling food donated by The Grocery Store in Big Sandy, raffles and a 50-50. Ament pledged to match funds raised.
Ament is helping the park out of sympathy for Big Sandy’s young people.
“I know that growing up in small towns there isn’t always a ton to do, especially if you’re not predisposed to play basketball or football, ” Ament said. “This is a good alternate activity. It’s outside.
“I’ve been all over the world touring, and I think skateboarding is bigger than it’s ever been, right now... It’s an awesome sport or art or whatever it is, a self-motorized roller coaster.
“I had a big ramp in the yard across the tracks. ”
Thornton said that the park is important for Big Sandy’s youth and its reputation.
“In the evenings we’ll come over here and skateboard, ” Thornton said. “High school kids come over. It keeps them out of trouble. It’s just a good place to come hang out in the evening in the summer time. It’s just a blast.
“It’s one of the better bowls in the state. I’ve talked to quite a few people and they’ve said this is a destination they want to come skate at. We’re pretty fortunate to have this bowl here. ”