Greenport hosts skateboarders

Mike and Michelle Bendik talk about the highs and lows of organizing the second annual Greenport Skate Park Festival on Moore

Despite the lagging economy that has blocked their hopes for attracting more corporate sponsors this year, Michelle and Mike Bendik will push ahead with the second annual Greenport Skate Park Festival, confident that they’ll eventually make enough money to resume upgrading the Moore’s Lane skate park and surrounding grounds.

The festival is set for Saturday, July 17, with a July 18 rain date.

The Greenport Business Improvement District, Costello Marine, William J. Mills and Co.. Beall and Bell Antiques and the Mattituck Lions have come aboard as paying sponsors, and numerous village merchants and individuals are making in-kind contributions to support the festival’s success, Mr. Bendik said.

The event has gotten the attention of a number of big names in the skateboarding community — TransWorld Skateboarding, Syndrome Skateboard Distribution, Skateboard Magazine and Bay Shore, Long Island’s Special Sauce. That attention could lead to corporate sponsorship in future years, Mr. Bendik said.

In the meantime, the Bendiks are determined to continue pushing forward, confident they’re building a franchise that will grow and attract skateboarders from across the area and even across the nation. Last year’s festival drew 33 competitors and a few hundred onlookers, numbers the Bendiks say they expect to double this year.

Despite economic struggles — last year, the couple put up $2,000 of their own money to launch the event — two factors convinced the Bendiks to pursue another season. For one thing, last year’s winner in the 18-year-old and up category, Patrick Hoblin of Riverhead, has gone on to compete in national meets and gained sponsorship from Raised Fist skateboard manufacturers. For another,several youths who participated last year have nothing but praise and thanks for the Bendiks when they see them on the streets of Greenport.

Another positive aspect of last year’s festival was the chance it gave families to share in the activity. Teens, who often begin to distance themselves from their parents, were instead bonding with their families while showing off their skateboarding skills, Mr. Bendik said. It also gave parents a new forum in which to get to know other parents, and it provided the entire community with a chance to see what the young skateboarders were accomplishing, he added.

“It’s a Cinderella story,” Mr. Bendik said about development of the local festival.

While he and his wife started with nothing but an idea and a dream, both remain convinced that the festival will eventually pay for itself and even make profits that will enable them to maintain the Moore’s Lane facility and surrounding fields. They want the area to be a place where artists and musicians, as well as skateboarders, can show off their talents.

The Bendiks are realtors who also own an art gallery in Westmoreland City, Pa., and split their time between there and the North Fork. At 39, Mr. Bendik is an avid skateboarder himself, and well schooled in business and management skills. His wife, 36, is the brains behind fund-raising. She also created and maintains the festival’s Facebook page and blog.

The two have been friends since the early 1990s. They married three years ago. That they share their enthusiasm for skateboarding and art and music makes them perfect partners to organize the festival and to keep their relationship thriving, Mr. Bendik said.

While the lessons learned from last year make logistics easier this year, fund-raising has been harder in 2010, Ms. Bendik said. Companies have had to lay off employees and don’t have the money to support festival activities, she said. But the couple feels sure potential sponsors are watching to see what the Bendiks can achieve in Greenport and that, as the economy continues to improve, they will see future support.

The amount of work necessary to launch this year’s festival prompted the Bendiks to close their art gallery for two months in order to concentrate on the event.

As it did last year, the festival will feature young musicians from throughout the area, along with artists whose works will be raffled off. There will be skateboarding demonstrations and lessons for new skateboarders before the competition begins, Mr. Bendik said. He said he has a few surprises up his sleeve for this year’s event.

The Bendiks are looking for volunteers — skateboarders and their family members and friends — to come out and help set up for the festival this Saturday, July 10, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. They will provide paintbrushes and materials for the setup day. Just show up if you can help. For more information, e-mail [email protected] or call 631-484-3536.

On Saturday, July 17, festival registration will begin at 10:30 a.m. with opening remarks at 11:45 a.m. and skateboarding due to begin at noon. State Assemblyman Marc Alessi, Supervisor Scott Russell and Greenport Mayor David Nyce will be on hand.

[email protected]

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