HARVARD -- It all started four years ago with a dream between Harvard resident Mike Girard and his friends. Girard and his crew took to the hills of the sleepy little town of Harvard and ripped their longboards down Old Schoolhouse Road and Old Littleton Road, the site of Saturday and Sunday's Fourth Annual Central Mass Longboard Festival.
In 2009, Girard, then a recent graduate of The Bromfield School, grew up riding the meandering hills of Harvard. Girard and his buddies started to film videos and upload them on YouTube -- soon, they went viral and people from near-and-far wanted to experience the hills of Harvard.
"My best friends and I started skating down Old Littleton and shot a few videos," said Girard. "We started doing that and got good views. A lot of people started asking "What's that hill? Can we come ride it?" More and more people started asking, and I decided we may as well close a road down."
Girard was wrapped up in running his landscaping business, so hosting people every weekend at his house to ride was not an option.
"There seemed to be enough interest to hold an event, so I approached the Board of Selectmen to see what would go into doing a road closure," the race director said. "They said I needed to show significant citizen support and have insurance. I went door-to-door to every resident on Old Littleton Road, and they were overwhelmingly supportive of the event.
The popularity of the CMass Longboard Festival continues to grow since its birth in 2010, when Girard and his friends brought 53 skaters to town. The numbers more than doubled in 2010 to 153, and this year, over 300 skaters from across New England and around the world convened in Harvard.
Spectators lined the course, dodging flying longboard decks and well, just trying to stay out of everybody's way. Riders competed across multiple divisions, including one specifically for hard-wheeled boards, which was a real treat.
Among the local competitors was Laura Nocka, of Harvard and Graham Feddersen. Nocka placed fourth in the women's down hill competition. Feddersen competed in the pro bracket of the slide-jam competition. "Three-fourths of the people are from at least a couple hours a way," the director said. "The guy who won the downhill race lived in Massachusetts his whole life, and he recently moved to California. Laura Nocka is one of the favorites for women's. The top talent comes from afar."
This year was the first time Girard decided to stretch the event across two days.
"It's been running really well, we haven't had any really serious issues," said Girard. "We have done a better job making sure no cars get on the road. There have been very few citizen complaints. This is the first time we have done two days, and this is the first time we have used this hill. We got a family sitting out on their porch watching it."
The Harvard General Store, at 1 Still River Rd., decided to sponsor this year's longboard festival. Girard worked at the General Store for three years, and he remembers racing down the course hill on his board every day on the way to work.
"It always had a long history for me," said Girard. "We need food, we need somewhere in the center of town to have our tents. They have been a store since 1896. They reached out to us, and it made sense as a partnership."
Harvard General Store owner, Scott Hayward, who celebrated his one-year anniversary of ownership last week, said he was more than willing to sponsor the longboarding event.
"To team with someone else in the community who is trying to do something just makes you feel good," Hayward said. "What we did this year, we talked to Mike early on and asked how could we help? It is amazing how much food we have gone through this weekend. People are eating breakfast, lunch and dinner here."
Friday night, a couple from New Jersey pulled up to the General Store around 9 p.m. The store was closed and they knocked on the door, Hayward showed his hospitality and invited the pair in.
"They came in and said listen "we just drove up from New Jersey, we're starving, is there anything you can do for us?' I went in and fired up the grill and made a couple of sandwiches for them. For me, I want them to go away from here and say that is the best sandwich they ever had."
When the skaters pack up and travel back to their homes, maybe they will remember the sandwiches, the gnarly hills -- or simply, the generosity of the Harvard community.