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The Journal Gazette

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Professional BMX riders Brandon Wolferman, left, and Chris Gerber complete a tandem backflip during Sunday’s Rock the Ramp BMX and skateboard festival on Calhoun Street. The event was a fundraiser for Fort Wayne Indoor Bike & Skate Park.

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Professional BMX rider Brandon Wolferman completes a trick on the tabletop ramp on his bike during the Summit City Rock the Ramp BMX and skateboard festival Sunday on Calhount Street. The action sports festival, which was organized to raise funds and support the Fort Wayne Indoor Bike & Skate Park, featured the Solution Action Sports BMX trick team, a skateboard competition and a line up of live bands, including the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra, Flamingo Nosebleed and Sankofa.

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Professional BMX rider Brandon Wolferman spins sideways on his bike while doing a trick during the Summit City Rock the Ramp BMX and skateboard festival Sunday on Calhount Street. The action sports festival, which was organized to raise funds and support the Fort Wayne Indoor Bike & Skate Park, featured the Solution Action Sports BMX trick team, a skateboard competition and a line up of live bands, including the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra, Flamingo Nosebleed and Sankofa.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 1:31 am

Riders, boarders ramp up, rock city at inaugural event

Jeff Wiehe | The Journal Gazette

Amid the cadre of tattooed men and women milling about the near south side, in the humid aftermath of a brief rain that befell Fort Wayne, Richard Hoppe took a quick respite underneath the shade of a ramp sitting smack in the middle of Calhoun Street on Sunday afternoon.

The 41-year-old was a little grayer in the mustache and hair than many around him and getting besieged by people needing things – water or tools or instruction. But when it came time to hop on a BMX bike and put on a show, he traded in his sweat-soaked T-shirt for a Hawaiian shirt and took his place with people decades his junior.

Such was life at Rock the Ramp, the city’s first-ever sports and music festival, for one of the old-timers who has kept the BMX and skateboard community relevant in Fort Wayne.

"I’ve been doing this for 30 years," Hoppe said. "There definitely weren’t as many tattoos when I started."

Hoppe, the operator of the Fort Wayne Indoor, an indoor BMX and skateboard park on East State Boulevard, helped organize the event along with Even Keel Event Productions and Living Fort Wayne. The organizers used the event to raise funds to support Fort Wayne Indoor Bike & Skate Park, a nonprofit serving those into BMX and skateboarding throughout Northeast Indiana.

Those who came to the festival were treated to exhibitions and contests, with both BMX riders showing off skills on one set of ramps while skateboarders did the same on another, plus several bands, all in front of the shops lining the 1800 block of Calhoun Street.

Hoppe’s indoor facility is touted as providing a safe and legal place for those into the culture to try out new tricks and ply their trade. While Hoppe said that many may see the culture as rebellious on the outside – the tattoos, the less than safe for work T-shirts – it’s really a community steeped in camaraderie.

"Camaraderie is huge," said Brandon Wolferman, better known as "Wolfie," a 20-year-old BMX rider who hails from Goshen but has traveled the country going from show to show, contest to contest. Wolferman described the sport as popular but within a tighter circle than other sports that may garner mainstream attention.

Which means those within it are more than willing to help each other out.

"It’s very much, ‘If you need something, bro, you got it,’" Wolferman said of the community.

Rock the Ramp had riders from all over Indiana and elsewhere, including 13-year-old Hannah Roberts. From South Bend, Roberts has been dubbed by one website as the "future of BMX" and was even invited to do a demonstration at the most recent X Games.

And for Hoppe, he doesn’t think he’s going to stop anytime soon. He’s blown out both his knees and recently tore his ACL, but he has no intentions of giving up his riding days soon. He still does a few demonstrations a year and is an announcer at various events.

"It’s 90 percent fun and 10 percent injury," he said.

jeffwiehe@jg.net