Special edition shirt available at the @talentskatepark Family Reunion TOMORROW NIGHT @artsriot ($20 youth-adult)
There will be a #limitededition color-way, it’s a secret 😚 Yo!
Please bring cash for the 50/50 raffle (Liam & Justin will be running around selling tickets), silent auction, tees, and artwork!
Can’t wait to see your pretty faces #thankyouskateboarding
Vermont's Got Talent
Last summer, the closure of Talent Skatepark in South Burlington rocked the Champlain Valley's skateboarding community. Regarded as the epicenter of skate culture in the region since its inception in December 2001, the massive indoor skate park and retail shop was highly influential in cultivating a generation of local skaters and said skating culture.
"It's so much more than skateboarding," former Talent co-owner Hannah Deene Wood told Seven Days by phone. "It's a lifestyle. It's a community. It's a family."
In June 2018, Wood announced the disheartening news via Facebook.
"How do you find words when no words match what you feel?" Wood wrote, noting her fond memories of teaching kids "confidence, balance and how to properly shake a hand (with eye contact.)"
Wood noted that the 2008 financial crisis was a turning point in the business' revenue.
"Every year from 2008 to closing day, we sank about 50 percent," she said.
It's worth pointing out that 2008 was roughly the time when smartphones began to proliferate, following the iPhone's introduction the previous year. The new tech drastically altered the way that youth (and adults) communicate and entertain themselves.
In a June article in the Burlington Free Press, Wood posited, "The majority of kids are very comfortable just sitting and playing on their phone ... Eye contact is not there because they don't want to take their eyes off the screen."
It seems the shift from live action to simulated action may have been a factor in the park's demise, in addition to a shift from shopping at brick-and-mortar businesses to online behemoths like Amazon.
Talent officially closed its doors in August 2018. But if you think the community-minded denizens of the area were going to let a gem such as Talent simply fade away, well, you don't know Vermonters. A new 501c3 known as Talent Skatepark, Inc., has emerged, with a mission to find a new home for the local skater set. Wood serves as its executive director. Currently, the nonprofit is in talks with Burton Snowboards to build a new park on its Burlington campus.
This Saturday, January 12, ArtsRiot hosts the official kickoff for the new skate park's fundraising campaign. The bill features rockers Swale, Rough Francis and James Kochalka Superstar, plus the comedy stylings of Laffy Taffy's chief laugh officer Richard Bowen.
To get a sense of what the park means to the community, look no further than folks on the show's bill.
"I started skating there when I was 9 or 10," said Rough Francis drummer Urian Hackney in a recent phone conversation. "There were a lot of factors that made me kind of an outcast in the community: growing up and not really being into team sports, and also being black."
But Hackney said that he found a home at Talent, noting its influence on not just his social life but the trajectory of his artistic career.
"Talent is a big reason behind the music that [Rough Francis] play," Hackney said, explaining that the extended Talent community is what led him and his musician brothers to another now-defunct youth-oriented hot spot: 242 Main. "Skateboarding and punk rock [are] very linked. Without skateboarding, we wouldn't be playing punk rock," he said.
"That place was like a second home to me," Hackney continued. "My life would be a lot different without Talent."
I'm sure we'll hear much more about how the park touched the lives of people in the community on Saturday.
Oh, in case you were wondering what became of the ramps and pipes at the old Talent Skatepark, rest assured that they weren't dismantled and scrapped for parts. Wood told Seven Days that everything was broken down and redistributed to other parks in New England, including Bolton Valley Resort, which now houses the former skate park's main bowl.
Shuttered skate park plans to reopen in new spot
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Arthur Lea, 8, loves skateboarding.
"It's really fun, like learning new tricks and doing new stuff," he said.
He's been doing it since he was 5. So when his favorite spot, Talent Skatepark, closed this past summer, he was devastated.
"Well, I was pretty mad. I was sad," Arthur said.
He wasn't the only one.
"I hit this really, really scary depression. That was my identity and had been my life for 17 years. It was a family as much as it was a business," said Hannah Deene Wood, who owns Talent Skatepark.
Deene Wood says they couldn't afford to stay in their former spot in South Burlington. But once they shut their doors, she started hearing from families like the Leas whose kids learned more than just skateboarding there.
"What that did for him, for his sense of self. It helped with school, with social stuff. And it changed his life in a great way. And I know that he's not alone in that," dad Creston Lea said.
Creston Lea was one of the parents who couldn't bear to see Talent go.
"There's nothing like that around here," he said. "There are certainly sidewalks and municipal skate parks, but Talent really was a home for those kids and that home has been gone."
An idea was born: reopen Talent Skatepark as a nonprofit. The group found a new spot off Industrial Parkway in Burlington but all their ramps and equipment had already been sold.
"We are going to have to start as if we had nothing," Deene Wood said.
While the nonprofit is up and running, there are still a few details that need to be worked out, including which part of the building on the Burton campus the park will actually be located in. She says that will determine how much money they need to raise.
"Two-hundred-thousand dollars to get the whole place built," Deene Wood said.
It's a large number but she's hopeful the new year will bring back old supporters.
"As the snow starts to come and people can't skate outside, they're going to say, 'Oh, I wish, I wish that Talent was open,'" Deene Wood said.
Her New Year's resolution is that they won't have to say that for more than one winter. If fundraising goes well, she hopes to reopen Talent Skatepark this summer.