Usually confined to the sidewalk or empty warehouse space, Lora “Butte Rat” Weitzel’s well-worn roller derby skates glided freely down an open street Sunday under the hot summer sun.
“To have something wide open and clear is amazing,” Weitzel said of the traffic-free stretch of street where the Hellgate Rollergirls had set up a weave course and other training obstacles outside their “Inferno” training space at 812 Toole Ave.
“We do this to practice agility. We have a couple jumps because people fall a lot and you have to be able to get over them,” Weitzel said. “We’re inside a lot, (so) it’s super important to get out in the community.”
A handful of Rollergirls shared a roughly mile-long stretch of car-free streets with walkers, bikes, scooters and strollers for the Sunday Streets Missoula event.
Streets were closed to vehicles from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday from the Red XXXXs in downtown Missoula to Westside Park via Railroad, Toole, Waverly and Sherwood streets.
Co-hosted by Missoula In Motion and the Northside/Westside Neighborhood Council, the goal of the semi-annual event is to encourage active transportation.
People enjoying the event could do everything from taking a tumble on the gymnastics course set up by Mismo Gymnastics, painting a wood block at a printing station set up by the Zootown Arts Community Center, or watch members of the Unparalleled Movement parkour team flip and jump around and off the Red XXXXs.
“Our slogan is ‘movement runs me,’ ” said Michael Graef, part owner of Unparalleled. “I’m all about movement and being active. I think it’s cool to have an event where people come and the whole focus is on movement.”
There were several obstacles, mats and even a trampoline set up for the Unparalleled team to use on Sunday. At one point several team members made their way to the top of the Red XXXXs, jumping from point to point until they were ready to flip off the last X onto a mat below.
Parkour athletes often use structures on and around the streets to flip, jump and propel themselves through the air in fluid motions.
Parkour is becoming increasingly more popular and Unparalleled recently opened its own gym on Commerce Street off North Russell where they teach the art of parkour to anyone who wants to learn, Graef said.
“We’re here to shed a good light on parkour,” he said.
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Further down the open street, ZACC Executive Director Kia Liszak welcomed people to try the art activities the center had set up near Little McCormick Park.
Some people created art using the street chalk while others worked at ZACC’s wood block printing station. Many also contributed to the “What does your community footprint look like?” project that included handprints, footprints and bike tire prints of participants on a series of canvases on the ground.
“We thought it’d be a good symbol of our community,” Liszak said. “It’s just a really nice (event.) It’s really exciting to be using the streets for something we don’t usually use it for.”
Three main activity stations connected the route. The first was at the Red XXXXs, the second at Little McCormick Park and the third was at Westside Park.
Brandee Sperry and her daughter Gracee found themselves at Westside Park on Sunday afternoon after stumbling upon the Sunday Streets event earlier in the day.
Gracee was enjoying a spread of gymnastic equipment and tumbling mats set up in the park by Mismo Gymnastics.
“I love that they do it,” Sperry said. “I can’t get her to leave.”
“I like it,” Gracee said of Mismo’s equipment before returning to tumble some more.
Six-year-old Chloe Rogers was also taking advantage of the Mismo gymnastics gear.
“I like the jumpy thingy and that’s all I like,” she said. “I’m hot.”
Luckily, Rogers came to Westside with her family and was wearing her swimsuit so she could cool down in the park’s splash deck when she was done tumbling.
Sunday Streets Missoula has been closing down streets for its events to encourage active transportation since 2010. The second 2013 Sunday Streets Missoula event will take place on Sept. 8 along Higgins Avenue.