Edgmont Ave between 5th and 6th streets in Chester has been bonkers these last couple weeks. A film crew has taken over the street shooting a movie named ‘Breathe’ about a mother (Jennifer Hudson) and her daughter living underground when the Earth is made uninhabitable from a lack of oxygen. Chester, with its air quality issues, is the perfect backdrop for such a story.
The movie crew cleared the street after filming on Friday afternoon to make room for the CRASHBOY Games, a bicycle stunt riding competition which started early Saturday morning registering competitors and officially kicking off at 11am.
The CRASHBOY Games were organized by Jon Slo DeShields and local business owners who are all bicycle enthusiast and have created an opportunity for a group of young daring bikers to perform their stunts in front of spectators for prize money.
The street was cluttered with bikes, props, spectators, vendors, cameras, security, medical services, organizers, sponsors, all-you-can-eat Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, event facilitators and judges. It may best be described as organized chaos.
The first competition was called Swerve, where bike riders doing a wheelie speed toward the front end of a cop car, then quickly avoid a collision with the car while staying between the cones and barricades set up to create a course, all without the front tire touching the ground and losing the wheelie. Judge’s scores were based on the degree of difficulty the bike rider creates while surviving a collision with the car and staying within the path of the course and maintaining the bike’s front tire never touching the ground.
Needless to say, it didn’t take long for a rider to slam into the front of the car and go sprawling on the street to the sound of loud gasps from the crowd. If it were me, I would have been rushed to Crozer hospital in critical condition, but each time I saw a wipe out, the young folks dusted themselves off and rode their bikes to the back of the line for another try.
After witnessing that first wipeout, I said to myself, ‘The games have officially begun.’
This event reminded me so much of when the X-Games launched in the mid-90s. I was living in Denver and worked at a fancy office building in the Tech-Center right across the street from where one of the first X-Games competitions were held. Me, and a few of my curious co-workers, stopped by to watch every day after work as skateboarders were doing crazy stunts on this huge skate park set up in an empty parking lot. There were hardly any spectators but plenty of competitors and cameras. Now, the X-Games attract a huge worldwide audience with this year alone a viewing audience on Facebook (5.4 million), Instagram (9.6 million), YouTube (3.3 million) and Twitter (1.6 million).
The CRASHBOY Games is exactly what I saw at those early X-Games. It’s new and novel, but so engaging and entertaining. It’s got the same youth audience the skateboarders had 30-years ago but now it’s being fed immediately into the social media ether capturing a clut following across the United States.
As a City Councilman, I had a wonderful experience working with Slo and L. Ward, helping them get the proper permissions and clearances from the various city departments involved in this event. As much as the downtown location was made to accommodate this inaugural event, I anticipate it will have to relocated to a different location next year to accommodate the increase in participants, vendors, and sponsors, and to allow for a better spectator experience.
Kids from multiple states came to Chester to participate in the CRASHBOY Games. It was refreshing to see so many young people not only show off their crazy skills, but to demonstrate a healthy dose of comradery, support, and encouragement to each other throughout the day.
I look forward to many more years of CRASHBOY Games in Chester as we all watch and see its trajectory grow to the X-Games level.