COLUMBIA — Lamar Scott looked toward the advanced skateboarders as they raced around the course. Even though he is only 5 years old, his enthusiasm matched those four times his age. All he wanted was to skateboard with the rest of the crowd, but he did not have that option.
Lamar became a skateboarding fan when he recently saw it on TV. His mother, Tasha Allen, bought him a skateboard, and he started practicing. He learned a few kick flips, but then he was forced to quit when someone stole his skateboard. Allen decided to bring him out to the annual skateboarding event, Shred Fest, which took place in Cosmopolitan Park on Saturday.
"I like the setup. It's real encouraging," said Allen of the event's emphasis on safety, healthy choices and giveaways.
After seeing what Shred Fest is all about, Allen has decided that she will buy her son another skateboard and will start bringing him to Columbia Skate Park on weekends.
But Lamar and his mother will not be the only ones going to the skate park regularly.
This Saturday, Shred Fest was an example of skateboarding's popularity in Columbia. According to Erin Carrillo, a city recreation specialist, a few hundred people came out to the event. That number consisted of people from all age groups. Children, teenagers and adults skated for three hours while family and friends watched from the sidelines.
Louie Owens, 43, decided to bring his family to Shred Fest. His 6-year-old son, Noah, has just started skating and was not quite ready to show off his skills. His 10-year-old son, Elijah, participated in the Beginner Tic-Tac Race where the skateboarder propels his or her skateboard without pushing.
"We skateboard around the house together all the time," Owens said of his family, which just moved to Columbia from Fulton.
Shred Fest provided many activities and competitions for the avid skateboarders. The event divided the skaters into three groups: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Each group had its own free-skating periods and contests.
One of the goals of Shred Fest is to shine light on skateboarding's benefits, despite what some people might think about the event.
"Sometimes there's a stigma toward skateboarding, and this (Shred Fest) is positive," Carrillo said. "It's important to recognize it's beneficial," as a form of exercise and social interaction.
Tiger Pilot of Columbia, a service organization that helps those with brain injuries, gave away free helmets.
The free helmets were part of Shred Fest's effort to promote safe and healthy choices while skateboarding. Jeremy Lee from Focus On Health Chiropractic was on site handing out information and signing up kids for a skateboard giveaway. He also had a spine model to show the importance of protecting yourself while skateboarding.
Falls, scrapes and scars did not deter little Lamar, even if it worries his mother.
"He assures me he'll be all right," Allen said, laughing.