Ten High

S.O.K.A. skateboard shop throws one helluva birthday party

S.O.K.A. Fest

Family Arena, 2002 Arena Parkway, St. Charles

From noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at the Family Arena (2002 Arena Parkway, St. Charles; 636-896-4242; $25). Attendees are not allowed to skate, but they can mingle with the pros. Visit www.sokaskate.com for more information.

Some people face a birthday with trepidation, some with anticipation. Right about now, Mark Sparacio is facing birthday number ten with an invigorating combination of both emotions. "I'm just running on complete adrenaline," Sparacio says. "And then when it's all over, the relief that it went off great will be amazing."

Sparacio himself is not turning ten, but his baby, S.O.K.A., is. The skateboard and snowboard lifestyle shop (which he owns with Frank Hunleth) celebrates a decade of doing business this month. So like any proud papas, the two decided they should throw a party. Invite a few friends over, play a few games, crank up the stereo -- the usual stuff. And after ten months of planning, what they have on their hands is the biggest skateboard demo the St. Louis area has ever seen.

"We've done small demos in the past and held them in parking garages," Sparacio explains. "So our idea was to go out and get the best skaters we could find, and bring them here in the hopes that we'd bring some recognition to the sport in St. Louis." Hunleth went to work assembling a team of skaters and a roster of bands. Confirmed skaters include Geoff Rowley, Jamie Thomas, Brian Sumner and Heath Kirchart, among many others (for non-skaters, imagine if Jimi Hendrix and the Sex Pistols decided to do a show together. In your backyard.)

Sparacio gives credit for the high-powered roster of talent to Hunleth. "This industry is so much of a scratch-each-other's-back thing. And my partner Frank is one of the most respected buyers probably out there. And over the years he's helped some of these guys...and so this is kinda, 'Thanks for helping us out.'"

But skaters just cutting doughnuts on the Arena floor would be monotonous, so Sparacio and Hunleth had to create a course on which the skaters can work their magic. Enter DC Shoes. The makers of popular skate shoes offered the use of their 9,300 square-foot street course. The course itself is well-traveled, having served as the proving grounds for a number of international competitions -- it's a professionally designed and maintained course, replete with ramps, ledges, stairs, rails, the works. But after S.O.K.A. Fest, its travelling days are done.

"Now, what DC has done is, they've actually given us the street course," Sparacio confirms. "So when this demo is over, we have an eighteen-wheeler full of street course that we have no idea what to do with." There's a certain hobble-kneed calendar editor with some suggestions, but Sparacio is already working on finding a home for his new toy. "I actually tried to e-mail city officials in St. Louis. I thought it would be a great thing to try to set it up somewhere, because kids will come from miles around to skate it. And I don't get any responses to that stuff," Sparacio says, citing the usual insurance concerns and the low public opinion of skaters as reasons for the lack of response. But he remains undeterred. "I'm telling you, if you could get Francis Slay to come and watch these guys, he would freak out. Marshall Faulk couldn't do a 360 kickflip if his life depended on it, and he's an amazingly talented athlete. These kids don't have coaches, they just do it on their own drive and dedication to learn. And it's amazing. So if we can do anything positive with [the course], that's what I want."

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