Ferndale celebrates art, skateboard culture at inaugural Gravity festival

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Ferndale — Casper Kershaw studied the rolling hills, metal bars and other features in the concrete skate park before he dropped his board and went for ride.

The second-grader from Mount Clemens smoothly glided on his Darth Vader skateboard, starting a lap down into the flow bowl and rounding its corners, his flannel shirt flowing behind him.

His father Robert proudly watched as his son skated in his first skateboard competition at the inaugural Gravity Art Fair and Skate Contest at Geary Park on Saturday.

"It's kind of scary and it's fun," Casper said.

Skateboarders, inline skaters, and scooter and BMX bike riders darted in and out of the bowl, showing off their skills and brushing up on breathtaking moves like jump and flips.

The park was partially funded by a $250,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation. 

People talk near the King of the Curb artisan tent, Saturday, June 12, 2021.

Krista Johnston of Reveal Productions, which partnered with Ferndale Parks and Recreation for the event, said the fair and contest are about celebrating art and the unique influence of skateboard culture.

"It's a really fun day of inspiration and community," Johnston said.

Partial proceeds from the event will go toward helping with park improvements and programming.

The art fair showcased more than 50 contemporary visual artists, including artist Katie Bramlage who creates art with "goods swept ashore" including driftwood and fired clay pieces.

"I like to imagine all of this washed up on a beach and I am a cave girl decorating my cave," Bramlage tells a customer.

Bramlage, who started her business last June, said Gravity Art Fair is her first outdoor art fair and she loved setting up and seeing people walking around.

"It's amazing. It's so nice being outside. The energy is awesome. I love Ferndale," Bramlage said.

Joe Gall, 37, of Detroit, does a trick on his bike, Saturday, June 12, 2021.

Modern Skate and Surf ran the skate contest. About 30 skaters registered for the competition broken into three age divisions, said George Leichtweis owner of Modern Skate and Surf.

Staff demonstrated how to use the skateboard and how to use protective gear, Leichtweis said.

"I have a big private indoor skate park and it costs money to go there but I've helped build a dozen (public) parks because I think you should be able to skate for free," Leichtweis said.

Elijah Rozbicki, of New Hudson, passes Modern Skate & Surf on his way to the skate park, Saturday, June 12, 2021.

Vendors sold elephant ears and Ferndale police and fire set up booths for families to come by a visit and get a drink of water on a warm Saturday afternoon.

Jami Contreras and children Bay, 6, and Sylas, 4, oohed and aahed as they all watched the skaters roll around the concrete bowl on bikes, scooters and boards, following their movements and voting on their favorites.

"He flipped in the air," Bay said keeping her eyes on the skaters as her brother rolled around on the grass.

"We were looking for something to do today. We rode our bike here," Contreras said. "The kids are really into it."


Elijah Blair, left, rides his scooter as Leonidas Slone, right, both 4 and of Ferndale, follows on his bike, Saturday, June 12, 2021.