Ninth Annual Pee Wee's Fest

Pee Wee's Fest


Top: Ben Ullman styles it up in the dirt jump area at Pee Wee's Mountain Bike Park in Lincolnton during the annual mountain bike festival held there on June 21, 2008.

Nestled unobtrusively in a quiet corner of Lincolnton, NC is a place where mountain bikers inclined towards the more extreme side of the sport come to play.

The place is Pee Wee’s Mountain bike park, and it played host Saturday to the ninth annual Pee Wee’s Festival, an event that brings together mountain bikers, friends, and community members from across the southeast.

With roughly six miles of technical singletrack, dirt jumps, north shore style freeride features, and much more Pee Wee’s is a fun place for mountain bikers of all inclinations and skill levels.

“We’ve got unicycles, we’ve got freeriders; we’ve got guys that practice downhill skills, we’ve got guys that hit the dirt jumps…we’ve got guys that ride cross country bikes exclusively” says event coordinator and Pee Wee’s Land Manager Mike Swanson.

Sure, dudes were attempting backflips, jumping 30-foot-plus gaps, and busting out plenty of bar spins, can-cans, x-ups and more, but the real spirit of the event is to bring people together around the common interest of good trails, good music, and the memory of the man who made it all possible.

Harold “Pee Wee” Morrison was no pee wee in the biking community. An avid outdoor enthusiast, Morrison was out riding and building trails on his land at age 63, even as the prostate cancer that would take his life began to become debilitating.

Morrison, whose wife Linda continues to own the land that comprises the park, built the trials there not long before he passed away in 1998.

“At first it was just cross country only trails with a few BMX style rollers,” says Swanson. “I kind of already saw way beyond that because I had been to British Columbia in 98.’ We started doing north shore stuff […] here the first year we had the festival with little log stunts. We tried to mimic the kind of riding we did out in British Columbia”

That first festival was in 1999, when the progressive, more extreme “North Shore” style of mountain biking developing in places like British Columbia was still unfamiliar to riders in the south.

Pee Wee’s Mountain Bike Park became one of the first places in the south to feature this type of trail, and nine years later it’s still one of the best places in the south for freeriding.

The park and the festival have now become lasting tributes to this all-around great guy nicknamed Pee Wee who had some land, a bike, and a vision. The spirit of Morrison is still alive and enduring for those who knew him.

According to Swanson the event has attracted over 250 people in years past, but this year he estimates the number was around 75-85 people. That doesn’t matter though; at the end of the day the Pee Wee’s festival is more about fun and community than numbers.

“We’re not worried about the size of it” says Swanson, “It’s always been a roots based thing, all of these guys that are helping out are volunteers…every one here knows someone else here.”

Though the festival has featured competitions in years past, this year’s event was a little more relaxed, with riders hitting the trails, dirt jumps, and freeride features all day. The only competitive event at this year’s festival was a “Tandem tube race” dreamt up by Swanson.

Riders tied two bikes together with inner tubes and then raced across a field with one rider towing the other. If truth be told, it wasn’t all that competitive, but it was fun.

The weather was hot, but not unbearable and the fun continued all day. With all of the stunts and jumps there were plenty of crashes, most without consequence, but that wasn’t the case for Danielle Crocker. Riding one of the beginner features, Crocker fell awkwardly on her head, sustaining multiple neck fractures.

Injuries are expected in this sport, but something this serious and unusual caught everyone off guard. Needless to say, friends and fellow riders were quick to offer support and encouragement to Crocker, and according to reports she is expected to make a full recovery.

Rain was in the forecast, but it didn’t come until the evening. By that time riders were hungry,
the grill was hot, and the band Fake I.D. (a local Sublime cover band) was getting ready to crank up some tunes.

With good music, good food, and good friends, the fun continued on into the night.

Next year will mark the tenth anniversary of the Pee Wee’s Festival, and Swanson has plans to make it a special event. A one day event this year, the festival will spread out to occupy both the 28th and 29th of March 2009, making room for even more fun. In the mean time riders can do what Morrison would do— “Shut up and ride!”

The local Sublime cover band Fake I. D. entertains riders and friends after a long day at the Pee Wee's Mountain Bike Festival.

Lighthouse Tour

Oak Island Lighthouse

Visitors climb the 131 steps to the gallery level of the Oak Island Lighthouse during a tour on June 19, 2008. The lighthouse has a distinctive grey, white and black banding that was created by pigmenting the concrete rather than with paint, which makes the outside colors equally visible on the inside.

Catawba Riverfront Classic

Catawba Riverfront Classic
A mountain biker rides the rolling singletrack of the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC on June 1, 2008. The Whitewater Center recently began charging a $5 admission to use these trails, which are considered by many to be the best in the Charlotte area.

Yesterday the Tarheel Trailblazers put on a great event with the Catawba Riverfront Classic mountain bike race at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte. I wanted to race yesterday, but with the bike in disrepair that wasn't going to happen.

No problem though, I used the event as an opportunity to get some great pictures and explore creative techniques such as motion blur accentuaded by a quick jerk/twist of the camera durring the exposure, as seen in these pictures.

As always, my pictures can be viewed on my flickr page.

Catawba Riverfront Classic
A rider assaults the rolling singletrack at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC during the Catawba Riverfront Classic mountain bike race on June 1, 2008. The fast and technical trails made for exciting racing.