Jan 7


VERNON -- Mothers, lock up your daughters.

Next week, the organization attempting to build a skatepark in Vernon will sponsor a whole different type of grinding in order to raise funds: Pole dancing.

The competition, only open to women, will offer a cash prize of $500 for the winner, and will take place Jan. 15 at the Kink nightclub located in the base of Mountain Creek's South Peak.

Stephen Wanczowski, 32, president of the Vernon Skatepark Memorial Organization, or VSMO, said all profits from the event will go toward building the skatepark.

"We're thinking we can have a really good turnout," he said. "I hope it will be our best fundraiser yet."

Tickets will be available for purchase at Outkast Sports on state Route 94 for $15 in advance and $20 at the door the night of the event. Women get in for free.

Lauren Lenihan, an event planner at Kink, said she expects the attendance to be "really big."

She said the club has one pole up for women during normal business, but will add a second pole for the event.

The contest will be judged by two-time Olympic silver medalist Danny Kass. The 28-year-old Vernon native is a big name in the world of alternative sports, known not only for his performance in the competitions, but also for his extreme sports clothing company, Grenade Gloves.

"Just by showing up, he is doing so much for us," Wanczowski said.

Even though people may write off pole dancing, Wanczowski said it is "not as easy as everyone thinks."

Although pole dancing is typically associated with gentlemen's clubs, the activity has taken steps recently to be considered an actual sport. The U.S. Pole Dance Federation, or USPDF, one of the more legitimate organizations in pole dancing, has been hosting a national competition for the past three years.

The USPDF selects judges with "extensive backgrounds in gymnastics, fitness, professional dance and choreography, and aerial work." It describes pole dancing as "a sensual athletic dance form that demands coordination, flexibility, sensuality, creativity, individual style and physical strength."

The perception of who pole dances may also be slightly skewed.

Kelly Whitehead, who came up with the idea for the event with her friend Marisa Connelly, is a microbiologist for Lysol. When she isn't practicing pole dancing in her basement, the mother of two is working hard as the co-owner of Outkast Sports and writing a book about pregnancy, set for publication in the fall.

Whitehead and Connelly will not be competing 

but will be motivating the participants.

"The contestants are really excited," Connelly said.

The nonprofit VSMO formed in 2008 with the intention to provide local youth a safe place to skateboard. Wanczowski said his motivation to get the park built comes from growing up in Vernon and "doing stupid things" with his friends just because they were bored.

"Kids need to something to do in the summertime," he said. "It is not going to eliminate the drug problem or stop them from being bad, but it will at least give them another outlet. And an opportunity to stay fit."

The VSMO has raised $24,000 so far, but Wanczowski said the biggest break it has gotten recently was an offer by Jamie Rickey, of Rickey & Sons Organic Farm, to lease an acre of his land for the park for $1 a year.

"Once they have a spot, it becomes real," Rickey said.

The farmer said although he was familiar with skatepark organization from newspaper articles, it wasn't until the June March Against Heroin, when he met 

several of the organization's members, that he began to see the skatepark as a real value for the community. About a month later, he donated the land.

Rickey's donation came more than a month before the petition to change the township's form of government was circulated. Rickey is now a candidate for mayor in the township's May election.

Wanczowski said the next step for the VSMO will be to iron out several legalities, such as purchasing insurance and writing the lease.

The group is also planning to have an art show fundraiser later this year, although a date is not yet set.