Hundreds of skateboard fans flocked to the Hillyard Skatepark on Tuesday for a chance to meet – and maybe have their own ride signed by – the great Tony Hawk.
That honor, however, went only to a lucky few who arrived early to the park in northeast Spokane to see the 44-year-old world-champion skateboarder. Hawk was in Spokane as part of the Birdhouse Left Coast Tour, an annual summer tour of some of the best skate parks in the West.
“I’ve never met a celebrity,” said 16-year-old Dylan Halverson, who waited patiently outside Hawk’s tour bus parked at the north end of Harmon-Shipley Park along Market Street.
Hundreds of fans milled around the bus, which was guarded closely by a ring of young women dressed in orange traffic vests – all dental hygiene students from Eastern Washington University. Their job, they said, was to stop anybody not wearing a special wrist band from getting near the bus.
“We had about 70 of our kids bring their skateboards to get them signed, but only a handful got lucky,” said Ray Anderson, who works at the Northeast Youth Center and also helped with security at the event.
Halverson, who attends East Valley High School, wasn’t one of the lucky ones. He wasn’t on “the list,” he was told.
Which was unfortunate, because he is a member of Spokane Teens Against Tobacco, a youth anti-smoking campaign. Hawk is also a supporter of anti-tobacco campaigns, including thetruth.com, an organization traveling with the Left Coast Tour. They handed out the wrist bands to kids who played rock-paper-scissors for a chance to meet Hawk.
“We don’t get very many opportunities to promote youth prevention programs to a wide audience like this,” said Krista Panerio, who works with the Spokane Regional Health District to organize Spokane’s teen anti-tobacco group. Hawk is a great resource, she said, because young people can identify with him. Hawk didn’t disappoint the hundreds of fans sweating in temperatures in the 80s who came to watch him do what he does best: skate. He was joined by a half-dozen other professional skaters.
“He does cool tricks,” said 7-year-old Jaheim Rios-Mance, who got two high-fives from Hawk as he skated past.
“Every once in a while something awesome comes along like this,” said Crystal Rios, Rios-Mance’s mother. “We try to come to as many big things like this as we can.”
Ryan Peterson brought his family from Nine Mile Falls to see Hawk skate. He also brought a ladder so he could see the action over the crowd. His 5-year-old daughter Lola was perched on top. His 12-year-old son Caden wandered the park trying to get a peek at the skaters dipping in and out of the concrete bowls.
“I looked up to him when I used to skateboard back in the day,” Peterson said of Hawk. “My son always asks me who I think the best is, and I always say Tony Hawk, Tony Hawk, even though he’s old-school.”
But Hawk’s appeal was evident from the crowd, which ranged from the very young to the elderly.
“He’s a legend in the sport,” said Justin Lucero, 25, who skates in Hillyard regularly.
Hawk got his start as a professional skater with Powell Peralta’s Bones Brigade and is widely considered a pioneer of the sport. He became a household name that even young people still know through his video game, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Hawk has also invested millions in skate parks in low-income neighborhoods – like Hillyard, where more than 30 percent of children live below the poverty line – through the Tony Hawk Foundation.
“It’s just cool to see that we are actually on the map,” said Travis Young, 13, a Hillyard resident and student at Rogers High School. “He’s pretty awesome.”