HUNDREDS of people of all ages turned out to support the Big Skatepark Picnic in Steyning on Sunday.
But the happy atmosphere and activities had to come to an abrupt end when rain lashed down on the Memorial Playing Fields (MPF) part way through the afternoon.
Organisers said the event, designed to show support for Steyning Parish Council’s skatepark on the MPF, attracted huge humbers of children, along with parents and grandparents.
The event got off to a sunny start at midday, with a carnival atmosphere.
Jock Paterson, the first skateboard pro in the country, opened the picnic with a speech about his love of the sport and how it had opened up wonderful opportunities from him, including travelling all over Europe and America.
He said: “Today demonstrates there is a positive drive behind a skatepark here in the MPF.”
A new generation was being inspired by Lucy Adams, the current national female skateboard champion, he added. She was there to demonstrate her skills and teach the children some new tricks.
Activites included a mobile skateboard and making colourful designs for skateboards, and Lisa Sampson, who runs Boogie Hoops courses in Steyning and Upper Beeding, displayed her hula-hooping talents.
Emma Vernon-Harcourt, one of the organisers, said: “We have gathered so many new supporters here today. It was great to see such a wide range of age groups pledging their support.
“This kind of initiative can really bring the community together – young and old, voicing their excitement about the benefits that the skatepark will bring.”
Jane Oxley, another of the organisers, mingled with the crowd and said people were enjoying the mobile skatepark so much, many were asking when a real one would be built.
Phil Bowell, chairman of Steyning Parish Council, praised the organisers and said he was pleased with the show of support for the council’s plan.
Among the supporters was Olympic gold medalist Sally Gunnell, who lives in Steyning. She said: “Skateboarding is a wonderful sport and so important for many reasons, including socialising and healthy exercise.”
A giant group photograph was organised to demonstrate the level of support for a skatepark on the MPF and people were uged to sign up to firstname.lastname@example.org for updates.
With the event in full swing, the clouds suddenly opened but the downpour did not dampen the spirits, even though the event had to be brought to an abrupt end.
Peter Walsh said: “This is just the start of a clear mandate from residents through a survey of views.”
Marcus Williams added the Memorial Playing Fields project was fully funded and was the only viable site, as Steyning Grammar School had categorically stated it would not release land for a public skatepark.