KAMLOOPS — A few dozen skaters competed for best trick and best line Saturday (June 18) night at the Jackalope Block Party at McArthur Island Park. (By Stephanie Swensrude _JACKALOPE BLOCK PARTY)

“It’s really exciting;this is the most people I’ve seen at the skatepark,” said skater Jessica Hemenway, a group of girls competing in the event.

“My mindset just does the best you can and encourage everybody else around you. I’m lucky to have such a great group of friends here supporting me, and I’m grateful for that,” said Hemenway.

Jackalope Fest is an annual skateboarding competition in Montreal, pitting the best skaters in the country against each other. This year, the organizers wanted to better source talent from more communities and decided to tour in the weeks leading up to Jackalope Fest.

Betty Esperanza is partnership manager for Tribu Expérientiel, the group putting on the Jackalope Block Party.

“Watching the skaters here in Kamloops, there’s a lot of talent;you can see that they need competitions like this to push themselves and become better,” said Esperanza.

“It’s a community in itself, and it’s so important that they hang out together and learn from each other.”

The first-place winners in the men’s and women’s competitions won an all-expenses paid trip to Montreal for Jackalope Fest in August, where they’ll compete against the other finalists from across Canada.

Hemenway had her eyes on that prize Saturday. She was at the park all day practicing her tricks to impress the judges.

“I would be excited to be able to go hang out with all these lovely people working on the event,” she said. “They’re all super nice, and [I’d] just jump at the opportunity to explain anything or make everybody feel welcome and happy.”

Hemenway spends her Monday nights mentoring women and girls in skateboarding. With her two friends, Lily Hawley and Myah Lawrence, she founded “Girls Skate Kamloops” three years ago when she noticed that there weren’t many girls at the skatepark.

“The youngest girl that came out was three, and our oldest girl has been 47,” said Hemenway. “It’s awesome … just having the support system of having all the other girls there encouraging you. Especially, seeing on most Mondays there are more girls here than there are guys, that’s super exciting.”

The third-place winner even thanked Hemenway in her acceptance speech and said Hemenway taught her everything she knew.

One of the rowdiest moments of the night was when Hemenway landed a varial kickflip first try in the “tricks” competition. The crowd erupted, and Hemenway’s face was disbelieving.

Hemenway’s hard work paid off as the podium was announced around 9 p.m. Saturday. She was announced as the first place winner, and she will head to Montreal on August 19-21st to test her skills against all of Canada’s best women skaters.