Post, photos, and videos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.
Last week, I groused about the lack of communication surrounding the national wakeboarding championships that were occurring right here in our neighborhood. While I thought this was a one-day event, it turns out the competition stretched over several days. An intrepid neighbor sent me the following texts,
"This is the biggest event of the year to occur in North Minneapolis and no one is here to record it."
"And I didn't realize it was swimmable here. Hot chicks in bikinis totally swimming in the river. And free Rock Star energy drinks." (For the record, this friend was looking out for me, and would have been happier with the buff, shirtless dudes. This event had something for everyone.)
"I just realized *if* Broadway Pizza had a patio, people could be on the patio with beers watching this too!"
And the coup de grace, "Get yo ass down here now!"
So get down I did, and saw...
First off that I could quickly answer my question about who would be the appropriate party or government entity to check with about future notifications of such events. (Okay, technically I saw the babes in bikinis handing out free energy drinks first. Let's be honest here.) But regardless of who grants permission to hold events in the water, on the river, the booths were clearly on Park Board land. We can quibble all day long about who ELSE knew about the event beforehand, but the wakeboarding organization obviously got permission from the parks to set up shop.
The competition was also very accessible to its fan base,
with spectators pretty much encouraged to swim in the water where they could watch the participants. Every once in a while, the announcer would call out an athlete's name and say they were at a booth signing autographs. Crowds would line up to meet the boarders and get a signed photo.
From what my friend and I could gather while watching, wakeboarding involves having the boarder criscross the wake of the boat, catch some air, and do various kinds of tricks during that split second of hang time. The photos above were my best ones, and they don't come anywhere near a true indicator of the coordination and athleticism involved. Just watching made me want to learn more. But then the announcer said, "...heading under the Broadway Bridge, and she tries to pull a Moby Dick!" And I thought to myself, "I have no clue what that means and I'm afraid to put it in a Google search."
And here we were, at a national championship event, with the announcers using geographical place names like the Broadway and Plymouth bridges to describe the action. I was both thrilled to have NoMi on such a stage and utterly disappointed that so few actual community members were present to share the experience. The national wakeboarding championships may never come back to NoMi, at least in our lifetimes. People from all across the country were there, but folks right across the highway remained largely oblivious. What's wrong with this picture?
High-profile events like this are the easy, low-hanging fruit for creating a connection between the community and the Mississippi River. The athletic conference paid to reserve the spot, coordinated the event, and marketed it. All our Park Board rep or city council person needed to do was include a quick notification in newsletters and email blasts. How much in public resources would have been used up to notify community members about the wakeboarding competition? Virtually nothing. And yet that would have leveraged so much more in terms of a community connection and even money spent at local businesses.
We did our best to try and simply enjoy the moment, and not let our frustrations overshadow the great time we were having. It wasn't easy, but the