Growing up, every kid has one thing which makes them feel a part of something. It teaches them the importance of community. Some find Little League, others Boys or Girl Scouts, while others go to summer camp.
Sarah Meyers’ four children, ages 3 to 14, are enjoying a BMX childhood.
On a Tri-City BMX’s winding, hilly quarter-mile track on Rotterdam’s Burdeck Street, learn the skills of the sport and find relationships to last a lifetime.
“The kids expect to come here,” said Meyers, of Fort Edward. “They enjoy having friends here, and we all get together outside of here, also.
“My kids are running around, but people are looking after my kids. I don’t have to have my eyes on them at all times because everybody’s looking out for everybody here. If one kid crashes on the track, every parent is running out to help. It’s not like, ‘Oh. It’s not my kid.’ Everybody’s helping everybody.”
The track is a not-for-profit organization hosting racing on Tuesday and Friday nights. The races are open to anyone interested in giving BMX a shot. Track operator and Tri-City BMX Board President Jon Tanzman figures every summer starts with about half the riders being new to the sport. He remembers how welcoming the atmosphere was when he started coming with his oldest son eight years ago.
“My first season here, I was talking to some people and they said, ‘Ya know, if you come out and help us out on work nights, we’ll work with the kids while you’re working on the track,’ ” he said. “So, we showed up and everybody kind of clicked, and here we are.”
Everything has come full circle for Tanzman and his family. His oldest is now 19, and doesn’t have the time to race while working. However, now he’s the one doing the teaching when he can.
“My oldest will still come out and help the two younger ones and other kids just because he grew up here,” Tanzman said. “This is what he knows, and this is what he loves to do.”
During the summer months, Tuesdays and Fridays are racing nights, as opposed to the school year when Tuesday is a practice night. Tanzman figures there is around 110 racers competing on an average night at the track in the summer, with competitors ranging in age from 2 to 62.
More astonishing is the miles some travel to compete at Tri-City. It is the only track in the Capital Region and just one of five Upstate. Yet, the track has even had visitors from out of the state as far as Hawaii just passing through with their bikes. Tanzman says it’s normal to have riders from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Canada.
The riders from Tri-City travel away from home as well for bigger competitions on the state and national circuit. Brian Meyers loves growing his racing circle.
“You’re constantly meeting new kids and new families and gaining new friendships all over the place,” he said. “I’ve never done that through soccer or baseball, because [in BMX] you’re side by side.”
Charley Joslin has been traveling for his three children’s competitions for four years. Last year, from March to December, he put 65,000 miles on a brand-new truck. His middle child, 15-year-old Autumn, is one of the best riders in her age group in the East. She loves the travel, but there’s something about coming home to Tri-City.
“It’s good to be back at your home track riding with all the people you started with,” she said, “like family.
“But on the track, there’s no friends, just you.”
Scott Doland, 24, is the regular race announcer at Tri-City BMX, and has been for more than three years. He started his racing career at age 6 in the New Paltz and Kingston area. He got into it with his father who raced as well. BMX offers an experience for kids like no other youth sport in his mind.
“With other sports, there’s one or two, maybe three, coaches out there,” Doland said. “[Here] everyone is better than somebody. Everybody starts at the bottom and eventually, everybody, becomes that skilled rider that helps out somebody else.”
Doland finds it difficult to quite explain what it was like to be able to share racing with his dad growing up, but it was fun. When he started school at Hudson Valley Community College, he moved to the Capital Region and began racing at Tri-City. He is proud of the life he has made for himself, and hopes to help kids at the track feel the same.
“That’s honestly what keeps me here,” Doland said. “I see the life that this sport has given me, and I just try to give these kids the same opportunities.”
The Tri-City community has grown to mean so much to Doland, despite not being from the area. As announcer, he has a front-row seat to see the connection of families like the Tanzmans, Meyers and Joslins.
“There’s no blood involved,” Doland said, “but it feels like it.”
Here's a link to all the stories we've written about fun things to do this summer. And share your ideas for Summer Days at www.dailygazette.com/summerdays or at [email protected]