Saturday, June 1, 2013

Harbor City Roller Dames: Imagination + Athleticism = Entertainment

Skating has been a part of our national experience for as long as I can remember. Whether ice skates, roller skates or the now popular inline form of skates, there’s something to be said for gliding fast, unshielded, in a tuck close to the ground with your heart pounding, the whoosh of wind in your face. Though never an accomplished skater myself, I've enjoyed the experience and can appreciate the talents others display when they’re especially good at it.

Tonight, the Mississippi Valley Mayhem will be coming to the DECC for the big end-of-the-season showdown with our local stars, the Harbor City Roller Dames, in a meet titled Bruise Directors. Off the battlefield you can’t tell these ladies from artists, writers, accountants or administrators. But when they don their gear, look out Charley. You’re gonna get hit. And hard.

According to the About page on their website, “Harbor City Roller Dames (HCRD) is the Twin Ports’ and Northern Minnesota’s ORIGINAL women’s flat track roller derby league! HCRD provides an opportunity for all women ages 19+ to learn and play the sport of flat track roller derby and participate in the skater-run business aspects of the organization. HCRD strives to maintain a presence of athletic entertainment in the Duluth and Superior area, while using the efforts of the league to give back to the local community.”

I think this last part especially intrigued me. Through volunteer opportunities and bout proceeds the HCRD gave $4000 back to the community in their first season alone. And their giving back has grown continuously.

Jilly Willy
"We have worked to benefit organizations such as Animal Allies, Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA), The Emily Program, Safe Haven Shelter, Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, Damiano Center Kids Cafe, Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse (CASDA), First Witness Child Abuse Resource Center, and the Lakes and Pines Girls Scouts Outreach to Girls at Risk Program.”

The popularity of Roller Derby as a sport – or serious form of entertainment – got legs in the early 1950s with the advent of television. We older citizens remember the name San Francisco Bay Bombers. I actually saw them live in a performance/competition at Ohio University in the early 1970s. But like many activities, the enthusiasm waxes and wanes.

In more recent years there has been a resurgence of the sport, primarily in small to mid-sized communities like ours here where our Harbor Cities Roller Dames were founded in 2007. They team became skater owned in 2009, becoming involved in the Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association in 2011. The league is open to all women age 19 and up. According to Jilly Willly of the HCRD, “It's the fastest growing female sport in the country.”

I love the creative names the players assign themselves. Names like Bubonic Tonic, Ghost Whirl’d, Smackmeister and Thunder Bunz seem to reflect the characters at play. Here’s one with literary roots: Violent Baudelaire. (Baudelaire, a French poet and essayist who initiated the translation of Edgar Allen Poe’s dark works. His most famous collection of poems is translated Flowers of Evil.)

Even the refs in this league have hilariously dangerous names… like Dread Kennedy and Blue Screen of Death. Tonight they are winding up the season here at home, coming off a big win against the Northern Pains in April. Action starts at 7:00 p.m. at the DECC.

About Town
If jamming and two-fisted tango is not your thing, there's plenty more to see and do here this weekend, not the least of which is the Duluth Superior Film Festival . Get out and see what you can find.

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