Houston is known by many names: Space City, Bayou City, Clutch City. Barry Blumenthal likes to call Houston “Skateboard City.” It’s home to the largest public skatepark in the country, as well as the hippest. The big one is up close to Spring—the North Houston Skatepark. The cool one, the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark, sits along Buffalo Bayou in the shadows of the city’s mighty skyline. “The Jamail Skatepark makes a city of seven million feel like small town America,” says Blumenthal, who has been skating the smooth curves and steep drops there for many of his 54 years.
Ultimately, skateboarding is about community: For the past 11 years, Blumenthal has put on dozens of concerts and benefits at the skatepark, such as the annual Skatestock, which raises funds for a free helmet program. On Saturday, November 2, Blumenthal is throwing the first annual “Skate Rock and Give” blood drive from 3 to 6 p.m. at the park. Two bands will play (Brian’s Johnson, an AC/DC cover band, and the hard rockers Dolly Rockers) while kids, teenagers, and grown-ups skate and the Gulf Coast Blood Center collects voluntary donations. “We call it a jam session,” says Blumenthal. “Music and skateboarding are connected at the hip. My hope is to inspire a young skater to pick up an instrument or a music fan to pick up a skateboard.”
The free event is in honor of Johnny Romano, a Galveston boy who became the youngest professional skater in history before dying of leukemia in 2008 at age ten, not long after the Jamail Skatepark opened. Romano was known for his passion for skating—as well as his bravery as he fought the disease, grabbing the attention of skaters all over the world. “Johnny will always be recognized as the most courageous Texas skateboarder ever,” says Blumenthal. “His legacy represents all that is good and pure in Houston and Galveston skateboarding.”
Bring your helmet—the Jamail Skatepark requires them, even for the cool kids. Strap it on, request AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood (You Got It),” and drop in.