Reporting Jeff Wald
FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCCO) – You can’t blame Mark Rodriguez if he has a twinkle in his eye during the Minnesota State Fair.
He goes by “M-Rod” in his Golden Valley skate shop “3rd Lair,” and skating is his passion. He loves to be on a skateboard as much as he can, and it became a business venture for him 10 years ago. Rodriguez got his first skateboard for his eighth birthday and hasn’t stopped since.
His company is out in full force at this year’s “Great Minnesota Get-Together.” He had a full skateboarding and BMX biking course built in four weeks along with a training course that took about a day. They’re offering 20-minute sessions for $20, and their schedule was full on the opening day of the State Fair.
They also do daily demos where their expert riders glide effortlessly around the track, fly through the air and do tricks as if it’s nothing.
“It’s the first year we’ve done lessons. There’s definitely an entertainment aspect,” Rodriguez said. “The core of what we do is participation. We want a place for younger riders where it can be done in a safe, positive way.”
Rodriguez said 3rd Lair, which started in 1997, has been at the State Fair for 14 years but started offering lessons for the first time this year. He said they also travel to several county fairs and also do private parties by request.
“We had a great crowd out here the first day and we expect to have great crowds on the weekends,” Rodriguez said. “We had lessons booked on the first day throughout the day.”
The company has most of its workforce at the State Fair to help out with the shows they put on, and help with the lessons they give. Rodriguez said for some, it’s a life-changing activity.
“You tend to find that younger riders will be more willing to try more things when an instructor is around. You have to get over that fear that you’re going to take a fall. It’s definitely an outlet for some. You have to disciplined on a board or a bike and you have to stay focused. Boarding is all mental,” Rodriguez said.
In that sense, it’s similar to any other sport where practice makes perfect.
“For every one pro rider or skilled rider you have, there’s thousands more out there who just think it’s a fun thing to do,” Rodriguez said.
Tukkur Vanvark has worked at 3rd Lair’s Golden Valley shop for four years. He said it’s place for kids to grow up who are brand new to skateboarding and grow them into full-fledged riders. He said the Minnesota State Fair is an event the company looks forward to every year.
“It’s a great place for us to share our love with the activity and it’s a great publicity thing. It’s great to have us showcased around the state,” Vanvark said. “It’s the biggest event we do every year.”
The 3rd Lair Skate Park is on the northwest corner of Underwood and Murphy Street on the State Fairgrounds. They offer lessons starting at 11 a.m. daily and have demos to show off their skills starting at noon daily.