SkateFest started as an idea for Omaha’s first skateboarding competition and festival. To get a jump start on funds for the event, Blake Harris’s organization SkateFest Omaha applied for One Omaha’s community-building mini-grant. As one of nine community groups granted funding, SkateFest Omaha received $1,105 to plan and host their event.
Held at James F. Lynch Park at 20th and Dorcas Streets on Sept. 12, 2021, SkateFest’s mission was to shed light on Omaha’s skateboarding and creative cultures and provide something special for kids coming from the inner city skate scene.
Running from early afternoon to evening, SkateFest featured local vendors, kids’ activities, an art show, food trucks, yard games, a graffiti wall, a skateboarding contest, and a giveaway (product toss) of skateboards.
The competition was broken into age groups 5-13, 14-18, and 19+ with first, second, and third place prizes for each age bracket. Skaters were judged on style, consistency, and difficulty of tricks.
Funds from One Omaha helped pay for the park’s rental, insurance coverage, and prize money for the skate contest.
“We felt so good supporting our community, and they supported us back,” Blake Harris, head of the SkateFest Omaha organization, said.
Before the culminating 2021 event, Harris and his team planned other community “pre-events” over the summer, including auctions to raise funds for an indoor skatepark at Cultxr House, a creative community hub on North 24th St. Funds from One Omaha were used to launch the first auction, at which skateboard decks painted by local artists were awarded to the highest bidder. The original call for artists sought 10 participants, but so many artists applied that Skatefest decided to auction 20 boards instead.
“We want to serve the skate community and the creative community,” Harris said, “because the skate community is the creative community.”
“Our programming will focus on inner-city skateboarding culture because that’s where I come from, and that’s who needs to be served,” Harris said.
SkateFest Omaha’s vision is to “give Omaha’s skateboarding community something to look up to [and] be proud of” while also representing the skate culture of the city. Last year presented hurdles but helped the team quickly learn the ins and outs of event planning and organization.
“It’s been a blessing and a crazy ride the whole time,” Harris said. “One Omaha was a big help. They have so many cool resources for community leaders. I would 1000% recommend working with them to anybody. I loved the whole experience.”