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Ben Karkela , Published August 15 2010

Racing: Kids, parents take to BMX , Fans flock to rock ’n roll aesthetic of family friendly sport

Joel Campbell took his post atop the scaffolding at the West Fargo Bicycle Motocross Track just as Van Halen started pulsating through the sound system.

Campbell watched as riders wearing flashy, brightly colored jerseys flew through the air just as a guitar solo screamed through the speakers.

That’s the rock ’n roll aesthetic of BMX. It’s an extreme sport, often considered dynamic and dangerous, even counter-culture.

Campbell, the president of the West Fargo BMX Association, sees the sport as family friendly and open to every one.

“Everybody competes and races,” Campbell said. “Nobody sits on the bench here in BMX. It brings out the best in the kids.”

Campbell, 36, became hooked on BMX last year when he finally had time to devote to racing.

He now oversees the track in his spare time.

The track is located at the south end of Elmwood Park. It sits along the edge of the Sheyenne River, sheltered from the wind by a thick blanket of trees.

On Saturday, the track hosted the North Dakota State Championship pre-race, one of three state qualifying races. The other two were held in Bismarck and Grand Forks.

Competitors from across the state competed to win their divisions. All participants can ride in the state final, but in order to be named state champion, a rider must qualify in two-out-of-three state pre-races.

The state championship final is held today with registration at 9 a.m.

The track operates every Tuesday.

A team of devoted volunteers, armed with shovels and rakes, help maintain the track.

Parents – not just their children – race BMX, too.

Mike Butler, 42, recently returned to the sport after a 22-year hiatus.

His 7-year-old son, Avery, got him back into racing. He enjoys meeting new friends at races as well as the rock music playing from the speakers.

“It’s all consuming once you get into it and it soaks you in,” Butler said. “It’s just a good family sport and everybody is really friendly and nice.”

Alexis Burke, 7, started racing two months ago and likes to improve each time she races.

The soon-to-be second grader prefers to ride at the BMX track rather than her neighborhood.

“Here you can meet friends,” Alexis said. “Each [race] you can figure out what you should do better.”

Mike Reiner, 43, is the track operator at West Fargo.

He picked up racing in 2004 after his children got him interested in the sport.

Reiner travels across the upper Midwest to race BMX.

“We just look forward to camping with friends we haven’t seen in the previous year,” Reiner said. “That’s why I’m in it now. Not so much for the competition, but for the camaraderie.”

Campbell and Reiner have been interested in building an indoor BMX course that could be used during the winter.

Campbell believes a track that is open year-round would not only benefit riders, but also bring in money to the economy.

“I think if the whole town got on board we could really grow this facility and get an indoor BMX park in the winter,” he said. “We need one of those here in Fargo. It is a long winter.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ben Karkela at (701) 241-5549.