Community Concert On Deck to Support Columbia Falls Skatepark

The free Oct. 14 fundraising event features outdoor skateboarding, films, food, and a concert by The Gray Goo as planning for new park enters homestretch

By Anusha Mathur
Young skateboarders participate in Skate Fish skateboard camp at The Dave Olseth Memorial Skatepark in Whitefish on July 11, 2019.

What music do skateboarders have in their earbuds as they shred?

Max Gargasz, guitar player for The Gray Goo, a self-proclaimed “proggy psychedelic doom funk fusion band,” feels that his songs are the musical embodiment of the rebellious, artistic and self-assured attitude that defines the Flathead Valley’s vibrant skateboarding subculture.

“It’s probably the punk rock sensibilities of our band and our kind of outcast, weird niche that we inhabit,” Gargasz said. “I kind of view skateboarding in the same vein as I view music. I recognize the value and the community aspect of it. Having something for young kids in particular to do, and having a space to gather is super important for the mental well-being of the community at large.”

However, the founders of the Badrock Skatepark Association have long felt that the next generation of Columbia Falls residents hasn’t been fully welcomed into this world – the fast-growing community lacks a neighborhood skatepark.

“We have one of the coolest skateboard scenes on the planet in Montana,” Badrock Skatepark Association Board President Matt Holloway said. “Having a park in Columbia Falls is meaningful to me because that’s where I live, and I know there are a lot of kids here that can’t get to Whitefish or Kalispell. Every time I’ve gone to the Whitefish Skatepark for the past 18 years, I just know there’s some kid left behind here in Columbia Falls.”

Leland McNamara, Matt Holloway, and Ryan Brown, key members of the Whitefish Skatepark Association, pictured in downtown Whitefish on Feb. 16, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Since 2021, Holloway and his colleagues at Badrock have been fighting to break ground on a skatepark in Columbia Falls to widen access to the sport. This Saturday Oct. 14, The Coop, a live music venue in the community, is helping to make that vision a reality.

This summer, The Coop’s manager Liz Poole began a series called “Concert for a Cause,” where the venue hosts events to raise money for community-based nonprofits. For their fifth concert, they’re partnering with Badrock.

“It’s just a great way to show support and get some money going their way,” Poole said. “I believe in the power of outdoor activity and the impact it has on communities as well as personal growth and healing. I think that skateboarding totally has all of those aspects.”

This event comes at a crucial time for Badrock. Most of the administrative work for the Columbia Falls Skatepark is complete and Dreamland, a skatepark building company, has approval from the city to break ground at Fenholt Park next summer.

Holloway said that the location couldn’t be more perfect – it’s easily accessible but tucked naturally into the landscape with a view of Teakettle Mountain and the Flathead River. However, one of the missing pieces is securing final donations to fully finance the project. He hopes The Coop’s event will help bridge that gap.

“We couldn’t do it without the community, without the city, without everyone,” Holloway said. “In the communities where we live a lot gets asked of us, especially from nonprofits as far as funding and support. It’s kind of never-ending, but it also enriches our community and people see value in what we’re doing.”

The event and concert are free and open to all ages. At 4 p.m., attendees will be invited to skate outdoors and see demos from experienced riders. Indoors, the venue will be playing a collage of skate films. There will also be food trucks and a raffle with items such as skateboards, snowboards and tickets to the 2024 Under the Big Sky music festival. At 8 p.m. the Gray Goo will begin their two-hour long set.

“(The Gray Goo) is so skateboard-y and jammy, so their style is very fitting,” Poole said. “They also don’t play very much, so they have that local draw and people definitely like to see them. I’m stoked that we have those guys out here. I think they’ll be a perfect fit for the theme of the night.”

Badrock has partnered with many organizations in the Flathead in the past, including hosting a fundraiser at Montana Coffee Traders and a public input design meeting at a local bowling alley. Holloway said that he hopes the event at The Coop will inspire people to be active in the skatepark’s development.

“The event is another testimony to the community being generous and helping us and being excited,” Holloway said. “It’s fun when we all come together. This is a community park and we’re doing it together as a community.”

The Gray Goo typically charges a set fee for their time playing at venues. This Saturday, however, they will donate this money to Badrock.

“We’ve been really fortunate to have a very strong community backing,” Gargasz said. “With the overwhelming support we’ve received, it’s really an easy decision to sacrifice one show to benefit the skatepark.”

Montana’s skateboarding scene has been growing, the latest addition being the expansion of the Dave Olseth Memorial Skatepark in Whitefish. It officially opened last week and is the second-largest park in the state. For Holloway, this brings new momentum to the Flathead skateboarding community that makes the upcoming concert even more exciting.

“It’ll be a night of us getting together, celebrating the idea of a Columbia Falls skatepark and continuing the conversation of what we want the park to be and what it means to us,” Holloway said. “At the same time supporting the vendors and enjoying the music.”

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