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Gnarly times in Big Sandy


August 15, 2014

Eric Seidle

The Annual Big Sandy BBQ and Skate Jam brought skaters from all over the western United States and even one from Costa Rica to take the bowl that the bassist for Pearl Jam had built for his old Montana home.

Dozens of skateboarding enthusiasts spent Saturday dropping into the bowl, grinding the lips and pulling off aerials. The skaters' ages ranged from very young to older than 50, and were of various skill levels, but the sense of community at the park made everyone equals.

Spectators listened to good skating music and helped themselves to great barbecue while they watched the feats being pulled off in the small Hi-Line town.

"It's probably the biggest group of Montana skaters together in one spot that I can think of," said Jeff Ament, a Big Sandy native and one of the founding members of the rock band Pearl Jam.

The skate park and Saturday's skate jam were made possible through Ament's endeavors.

In 2010, Ament put up the $40,000 to build the skate park in Big Sandy and the next year brought some friends together to skate the new bowl, thus creating the skate jam.

Josh Danreuther, owner of Pep's Bar in Big Sandy and one of the main organizers of the skate jam, said he has been a part of the event since its beginning.

"Jeff brought a bunch of dudes back, and it kind of turned into a party," Danreuther said. "We've been organizing it ever since."

Every year since its advent, the money raised at the two-day event is collected to eventually make an addition to the skate park.

The addition will add a flat section to the part with boxes, humps and transitions.

Danreuther said the money raised through the barbecue and sales at the event will be matched and said he imagines that in another year or two, they will have the money to make the addition.

The dates for the skate jam are different every year to work around Ament's tour schedule. He said he tries to spend as much of the summer as he can in Missoula, but spends most of the year in Seattle and on tour.

Ament said he has been skating since 1976.

"I think a lot people still don't understand what this is all about," Ament said. "It's still sort of seen as a rebellious activity."

Ament has helped fund and build several skate parks and is currently a part of the construction of parks in Browning and Baker.

"It's easy to get funding for team sports and kids who like to do that sort of stuff," Ament said. " ... But there's a large group of kids that this is what they're into. It gives kids an activity - a way to blow off steam. I know I needed it when I was a kid."

Danreuther said the event gets bigger every year with more skaters and more spectators coming to watch and hang out.

"Pretty much all the best skaters in the state are here," Danreuther said Saturday.

Randy Katen of Missoula was one of the skaters taking on the bowl at the skate jam Saturday. He has been coming to the event every year.

Eric Seidle

"We're all here to support Jeff Ament, who grew up here in Big Sandy and came back and built a bowl in his home town for about six kids who skate here," Katen said.

Katen said there were skaters from Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Costa Rica who came to Big Sandy for the weekend.

"It's becoming something where people come from all over for just the two days of being together," Katen said.  "I see people once a year and a lot of them are here this year. This is why you come is to see those certain people."

Katen has been skating for 40 years.

"I'm one of those who started in '74 and never looked back," Katen said "I always tell people you have to do something that reminds you of your youth and keeps you young because, let me tell you something, growing up is overrated."


Reader Comments

cadillac writes:

It is a great community event. There are many more than 6 skaters that use the bowl. People travel from quite a ways away all summer long just to skate it. It brings in more money than a person thinks to the community from people traveling to skate.

SoTired writes:

Skatin' Katen is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, do you realize how dumb his comments are? You can be grown up and a skater, Jeff Ament and Ben Harper are, just for starters. I think there are more than six skaters who use the bowl. Jeff made the initial investment, matches the BBQ take, they're going to expand -- for six people? Should have spent more time talking to Jeff and the people of Big Sandy.


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