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Parties in the Park are Muskegon's way to build a little community while enhancing the funding of some of our area non profit organizations.  It's a 40 plus year endeavor targeted at all ages and music fans.  There are areas with activities for kids, there's plenty of open space to stretch out, there's all kinds of amazing area food and the beverages are as cold as they get.  Local and national acts play the stage at Hackley Park and volunteers accompany their charity organization to do anything from selling 50/50 tickets to making sure the ice is cold.  It's really an amazing community effort.


Coming up on week 5, the non profit is the very last thing on your mind, I can almost promise that.  The West Michigan Speed Skating Club is on deck to staff the party and bolster the finding for budding young skaters who are out for the thrill and excitement of one of the Winter Olympics most intense sports.  Short track speed skating on ice is thrilling to say the least.  Unpredictable as a stock car race and the dynamics of the motion of the athletes is just mesmerizing the way they flow in and among one another and work in the air together.  They essentially skate on razor blades and the one thing they all have in common?  They all start somewhere. 

Enter  Mark Jastrzembski.  Pronounced like Carl Yastrzemski, Mark founded the club in 1988 and has seen members in two cities since.  Muskegon and Grand Rapids both host the club, Mark is from right here in Muskegon and in the early days, before names like Apollo Ono when the club was new...the future was a little touch and go.  A random call from a job recruiter asking if the club was in operation so he could make an offer to a guy to get him to move here was what it took to keep the club alive.  Since then, hundreds have learned to skate and one...who got her start with West Michigan Speed Skating, Kimberly Derrick was an Olympic Bronze Medalist in 2010.  That's a pretty good reason to keep a club going.

I'd like to share a thought about Mark too.  There's an incredible quality to him.  It's readily apparent as to what his purpose is and why he puts so much passion in to the futures of these skaters.  As you'll hear in our chat, it's not all about the go for the jugular win with him.  Mark is teaching consistency, fairness and fun.  He's giving people the nuts and bolts to do a pretty amazing task, but it's really easy to see in short order too that he's sharing life lessons and more through a sport.  That is the mark of any great coach or mentor.  I am the one who's lucky enough to get invited to the "rink" to visit, however...since there's not really a rink nearby in July....the stunning backdrop of his yard facing West Lake in Twin Lake Will have to do.  Take a listen. 


Bringing passion to a sport is important. Bringing passion to people is more important and when you can put the two together and find an Olympian out of it....there's something going on.  The West Michigan Speed Skating Club has it going on and to help them out, all you need to do is show up and enjoy some food music and beer at the Party in the Park on July 29th.  Party starts at 5 and goes till 9 with music by The Hip Pocket from Grand Rapids.



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