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4th of July, FDR Skatepark
by Stephen Voss

On my first visit to FDR, I'd taken a 4 AM bus from Washington, DC that arrived just after sunup on a cold winter morning. The sunlight had just begun to erase the dark shadows that hid the park's steep contours and endless lines. Above me, I-95 was full of rush hour commuters. The cars hit a steady, whooshing chord that bounced around the empty concrete walls. It was, if nothing else, still. The only clue to its function was in the dirty wheel tracks that marked the steep transition and the gleaming grind marks left on the pool coping high above the flat.


Unknown, grinding the coping

"Goddamn! Someone's gonna lose an eye!" I thought, as I pulled my station wagon onto the gravel that served as FDR's parking lot. FDR is a challenging skatepark on its own, with heavy terrain and a crash-up factor amplified by last year's addition of two bowls on the far end.

Brewce Martin, Skate Machine

Today a new element was added: fireworks. The first person I saw at the park was a young kid standing on the sidelines holding a lit roman candle pointed in the general direction of the Dome. Balls of sparkling blue and red bounced on the concrete, extinguishing only after enough near misses with skaters to question whether or not fireworks and the chaos of a full-on FDR session should ever exist simultaneously.

Unknown, f/s

In a lot of ways, FDR Skatepark on July 4th isn't unlike going to your Uncle Bob's house for the holiday. Just like at Uncle Bob's, heroic amounts of alcohol are consumed, fireworks go off continuously, and the barbecue is fired up, searing raw animal flesh to feed the hungry masses throughout the day. What's different is the skating. You won't find Uncle Bob or your drunken redneck cousins grinding an over vert wall 14 feet above the flat.

Unknown, f/s

The day got hotter as the skating wore on. Brewce Martin and the Skatopia crew owned the concrete that park builder Bryan Karl Lathrop had arrived early to paint. One look at Brewce and it's clear he's a skating machine. With inverts, and long, long grinds that defy any considerations of caution, he skated. As more skaters retired to lawn chairs to enjoy the day in a non-participatory fashion, Brewce pushed on. He kept his head down, intent on the skating, riding a hessian board clearly made for huge concrete monuments like FDR.

Jessie Gullings, oververt

Jesse Gullings pushed the envelope all day, showing lines only an FDR local could even visualize. Skate superstar, Bam Margera also came for a quick session, hitting k-grinds and flip tricks, and showing that the park wasn't just the property of the old school skate-lifers.


The fireworks never stopped for long periods of time, and sometimes they just got ridiculous. My days of pyrotechnic abandon are nearly over, and I can't remember what those tiny little popper-things are called, but, at some point, a whole case of that got carried out to the middle of the park and lit (by case, I mean a block of fireworks the size of three or four large cinderblocks).

Bam Margera, floating

They started going off, and the skating suddenly got turned up a notch. For nearly five minutes, the stench of sulfur smoke drifted over the park. Kids were hitting the bump the fireworks sat on, disappearing into the cloud of smoke, then coming down on the other side with busted eardrums and the respect of the whole park.

Brewce Martin, Skate Machine (again)

In the dying pops of the fireworks, I packed up my camera, and headed east to the ocean with my girlfriend. FDR on any day must be seen to be believed, FDR on July 4th defies comparison. Next stop: Burnside, Halloween.

Jesse Gullings, over vert, my Daniel Harold Stuart photograph