Games coming to Bedford

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Commonwealth Games start this weekend

By Mike Forster

  Move over, Roanoke.

Take a hike, Richmond.

Back of the line, Virginia Beach.

When it comes to this year’s Commonwealth Games, little old Bedford, Virginia will be among those most prominently featured.

That’s because the World’s Best Little Town (and County) will play host to two of the events that comprise the Commonwealth Games this year.  And, if you count the Franklin County share of Smith Mountain Lake as part of our area, there are three Commonwealth events being hosted in our region.

Mini golf, or “putt putt,” will be hosted at Hot Shots Minigolf, which is located at Eastlake, near SML.

Disc golf and skateboarding will both take place at Bedford’s recreational gem, Falling Creek Park.

The selection of the Falling Creek facilities is an acknowledgement of the quality of Falling Creek.  It is also a means by which to showcase the park.

Skateboarding Games coordinator Cameron McElwee is a big fan of Falling Creek.  ‘I like the park for its variety,” he said.  “It offers features that very few others do.  It’s a very adaptable park.”

“Having the Commonwealth Games here gives us good exposure,” said Michael Stokes, head man at Bedford County Parks and Recreation.

“Word travels fast in the skating community,” he noted.  “Once they’re drawn here, they’ll be back...Disc golf is the same way.”

The selection is also a testament to the hard work and generosity of Bedford residents.  The new skatepark was funded almost entirely by an anonymous half-million dollar donation.

The disc golf course was built largely through the efforts of volunteers.  As a result, the course was built at roughly half the estimated cost.

The facilities are considered world-class.  “To listen to some people, the skate park is one of the top three on the East Coast,” said Stokes.

What might be most remarkable is the paucity of tax dollars that went into the two facilities.

While donors, such as the one who gave that big chunk of coin for the skatepark, are rare, volunteers are not.

Kenny Palmer, the hard-driving Parks and Rec man, spearheaded the building of the disc golf course (as well as the park’s extensive trails system).

With 15-20 volunteers stepping up, Palmer was able to get the entire disc course built for $11,000, total.  “We could have gone after tax money,” said Stokes.  “Instead, we got volunteers who helped to build it.”

All of that effort has landed Falling Creek on the map.  “Now, not only are we meeting local needs, we’re drawing the attention of folks state-wide and beyond.  We rival any (other park) in the state.”


It’ll be jammin’

The Commonwealth Games are typically characterized by a spirit of fun and camaraderie.  The Bedford games should be also so marked.

According to McElwee, a festive environment should be found on Saturday.

The plan is to use the skatepark’s parking lot as a staging area for a mini-festival.  The current plan is to have tents and booths set up from such vendors as Dairy Queen, DE Shoe Company, Red Bull Energy Drink, Cherry Bomb Tattoos (non-permanent, folks!) and the Shoppe Skateshop, as well as a MoonBounce for the kiddos.

While the parking lot will be hopping, there will still be actual parking for visitors and contestants, alike, available on site.