Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

September 11, 2013

Vying for points

Southern Fried Cone Contest should attract best skaters

ASHLAND — The Poage Landing Days Southern Fried Cone Contest has moved out of the minor leagues.  The International Slalom Skateboarding Association has increased the number of points skaters can earn at this year’s event on Sept. 21 and, as a result, event organizers expect some of the best slalom skateboarders in the world will be demonstrating their considerable skills as they weave though cones while speeding down 17th Street.

The added points puts the Ashland race “in with some of the largest races in the world except for the world championships,” said organizer and skateboard Lenny Poage. 

“The crowd has always been great at Poage Landing Days,” Poage said, adding one of the greatest compliments he’s ever had came from an experienced racer who has competed throughout Europe.

“After our race was done he said the only time he ever got stage fright was at the Ashland race,” he said, noting the enthusiasm of local crowds who encourage each racer. “That was a real feather in my cap.”

Poage, who was one of only two slalom skateboard enthusiasts in the area when the Southern Fried Cone Race was first organized, said the festival event has generated considerable interest locally and is largely responsible for the local HOSS club.

“It’s very exciting, but a little bit intimidating because, literally, we will be having some of the fastest guys in the world coming to Ashland,” Poage said, noting Guinness World Record holder Richie Carrasco, who holds the record for the most 360s on a skateboard, is expected at this year’s race, and he may bring the world-record holder for the best time through a 100-cone course.

“Several pros have already signed up,” he said, citing expected guest racers from England and Canada as well as across the United States. Despite the increased level of competition, Poage said local skaters will also be among the athletes to keep an eye on.

In fact, Ashland resident Kyle Smith, 19, is the number one amateur in the world. “There will be a lot of eyes on him,” Poage said. “I’m looking for him to do pretty well.”

Registration for the race remains open, Poage said, adding the slalom skateboard scene tends to be welcoming to newcomers. Some specialized equipment is needed to do well at downhill slalom competitions, he said, although the only requirements are “a helmet and that you sign the waiver,” he said, adding anyone interested in racing can sign up at ncdsa.com. Practice runs for this year’s race on 17th Street will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 21 with official timed runs getting under way around 10 a.m., Poage said.

The Southern Fried Cone Contest helped fill a real void in Poage Landing Days. While older adults have always enjoyed and supported the craft tents and the concerts that have always been the centerpiece of the festival in downtown Ashland, one of most avid supporters of the festival sighed during an early festival and said, “Look around at all the people. Do you see any teenagers? There are a few but not many. We need to do something to get teenagers here. I can’t even get my granddaughter here.”

The cone contest immediately brought scores of teenagers to Poage Landing Days as they lined both sides of 17th Street between Winchester and Greenup avenues to cheer the skaters on. And it is not just teens who have watched the races, many old adults have also found the races to be entertaining.  While most of the competitors are young, there is also a handful of “old guys” on hand to show that they can compete with those half their age.

Poage Landing Days organizer Phillip Stewart said he is especially pleased with the level of attention from the skateboard community.

“The skateboard races have blown the lid off of everything. We’ve got a lot of professionals coming in this year,” Stewart said.

The skateboard races have always been entertaining, but they are about to get better. Increasing the number of points skaters can earn in Ashland is a tribute to the community and the organizers of this race. Of course, the existence of a nice hill on 17th Street makes the race that much more challenging.

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