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Crowd Welcomes Pearl Jam Bassist, New Skatepark in Malta

In the movie Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella hears a whisper telling him, "If you build it, he will come," while he walks through an Iowa cornfield.

In Malta on June 26, the tireless efforts of a group of Malta residents, countless donations of time and money by Phillips County businesses and folks combined with a beautiful donation by a Rock 'N Roll legend turned an empty field into a place of dreams as the city's skatepark officially opened. They built it, and he came.

"The turn-out is incredible," said Jeff Ament, the Pearl Jam bassist who donated $100,000 to see a skatepark built in Malta. "Ashley (Stuart) kind of downplayed it because I am just amazed with what's been done in the area around (the skatepark) with the concrete and the sod, picnic tables and everything here. This is really nice."

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 people flooded into Hillcrest Park on Sunday afternoon to enjoy music, food and skateboarding and to tell Ament "thank you" for what he had done for the people of Phillips County. Sunday marked the official ribbon cutting of the skatepark some three months after ground breaking and construction of the facility by Evergreen Skateparks.

Prior to his arrival in Malta on Sunday, Ament, an ardent skateboarder, spent the weekend visiting other towns in Montana in which he has helped bring skateparks.

"We hit a bunch," Ament said. "We stopped in Great Falls, Havre, Big Sandy and we just went to Hays which the Evergreen guys just recently finished. It is awesome."

Ament arrived at the park a little after 2 p.m. but people of all ages – from newborns to senior citizens – filed into the skatepark to enjoy a wonderfully warm day filled with lots of laughter and goodwill. Shortly after his arrival, Ament took a quick trip through one of the park's pools on his skateboard and gave his thoughts on the skatepark and the crew who built it.

"Billy and Katherine (Coulon, Evergreen owners) and that whole crew are such pros," Ament said. "I have worked with a lot of different people in this industry and Evergreen is top-notch. They have such an inspirational ascetic in their design and they build things that are equally for beginners or people who already know how to skate. It's a really neat design style and it has been great collaborating with them."

Ament was not the only person excited to see the new skatepark.

"This is pretty awesome," said Dylan Kinney, 10-year-old Malta resident. "I think I will be here a lot."

Dylan, who is new to skateboarding, later reported that he was "getting really good at wiping out."

Thaddeus Adams, 12-year-old from Malta, said that the skatepark is "pretty good" and said he is happy with all the things for children to do in town.

"If I am not at the skatepark, I will probably be at the pool," he said. "I'd like to see a bike park too, I'd like that."

(Stay tuned, Thaddeus.)

Mason Aldermen, 7-year-old from Malta, said he doesn't own a skateboard, but since he has a skatepark near his home, he hopes to get one in the future.

"I'd like a Walking Dead one," Aldermen said. "Once I get a skateboard I will be down here more. These guys skating now are pretty good."

Aside from novice skateboarders at the park on Sunday, a handful of Ament's friends – who've dubbed themselves "Jeff Circus" – were in Malta carving up the bowls for the onlookers. One "Circus" member, Randy Katen, made the trek to Malta via Santa Rose, Calif., has been skateboarding for 44 years, professionally from 1978 until 1987.

"Back when there was no money in it," Katen kidded. "I've known Jeff for about 10-years and he is great guy. I think this is his twelfth skatepark and they just keep getting better and Malta is no exception."

During the day, raffles for 100 helmets were held, Travis Rhoads played music, DalRena's served corndogs and deep fried Oreos, free snow cones were given out courtesy of Lynette Ereaux all before the ribbon cutting in which Ament was joined with Malta Mayor Shyla Jones, Councilmen David Rummel, William Sintler and William Hicks, PhillCo Executive Director Ashley Stuart, Skatepark Committee members Rhoads and Shane Carnahan as well as Malta Trails, Inc. representative John Demarais. The ribbon cutting officially turned the skatepark over to the City of Malta from Malta Trails, Inc.

Following the ribbon cutting, Ament stuck around and signed autographs, took pictures and swapped stories with anyone who was interested. It is not hyperbole to say those who were in attendance on Sunday will not soon forget the day.


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