Geo stretched out toward the new summer sun, calling to the captivated crowd.
“If you’re feeling all good, raise your hands y’all!” the hip hop artist shouted.
Instantly dozens of hands rose together, nodding to the irresistible beat of Blue Scholars, the musical group that closed the first-ever Sammamish Teen Fest on June 20.
Local teens swarmed to the event, held on the fields by the Sammamish Commons. The Teen Fest was organized by several bodies, and funded by a grant from a local foundation.
“It was a collaborative effort from the city, the youth board and the J. P. Williams Foundation to get the grant and do it,” said Andrew Hise, Teen Director for Redmond Sammamish Boys and Girls Club.
Only kids ages 13-18 were allowed in, with IDs checked at the gate.
“I would say we had over 1,000 come through today,” said Jessi Richardson, Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Sammamish.
Blue Scholars was just one of several attractions pulling teens into the free, nearly all-day affair that went from noon to 9 p.m. Three local high school bands and another band with a wider fan-base, Talbot Tagora, performed as well.
“I wanted to get a whole gamut of different types of music,” Hise said.
Along with live music, the Teen Fest held a skate contest and a BMX demo on the new skate park located outside the Sammamish Commons. Scott Yamamura, who designed the park, served as the emcee for the competition, narrating the tricks skaters executed.
Pam Miller, coordinator of the skate contest and mother of contestant Skye Siljeg, 14, said there were eight competitors in the beginning level, 11 in the intermediate stage and eight at the advanced level. Three would go at a time, in what’s called a “jam” format.
“You got to see a real diversity in skateboarding,” Miller said.
Thousand Yeahs, a professional BMX group, performed the biking demo.
“They do demos all over the world and they are really skilled BMXers,” Miller said. “I just go ‘whoa!’ at all of it.”
Pool tables, foosball tables and free giveaways also entertained the kids.
“They have shirts, water bottles, food, Red Bull, pizza,” said Bonnie Workman, a ninth-grader at Inglewood Junior High School.
But the biggest draw by far was Blue Scholars, a hip hop duo that started in Seattle and uses many local references in its songs, like in the tracks “The Ave,” referring to University Way near University of Washington and “North by Northwest,” where the lyrics extol the Pacific Northwest.
“The Blue Scholars have been one of my favorite groups since junior year (in high school),” said Imtiaz Arshi, a junior at Western Washington University whose sister helped plan the event. “It’s educated hip hop, it’s book-smart.”
Geo, the lyricist, played to his audience well.
“Everyone who just graduated from their high school,” he started, answered by roars from the members of the class of 2008, “where you headed to? Anyone headed to the UW?”
He listed several in-state universities, with students screaming for their future alma maters. Schools from Skyline High School to Inglewood Junior High School were represented in the mass of teens by the stage. One of the objectives of the organizers of the event was to demonstrate that a new place to hang out would be crucial for teens from all over the Sammamish area.
“We’re trying to get a teen center in Sammamish,” Hise said. “We thought this would be a good way to showcase the need for teens to have a place where they can go to, not just be in a Safeway parking lot.”
Arshi, a Skyline graduate, was pleased to see more opportunities for local teens.
“I wish we’d had these kinds of events when I was in middle school and high school,” he said. “It’s good to see the city of Sammamish try to foster an environment that prevents teens from getting involved in illegal activities.”
Organizers and teens said they hope to see more of these events in the future.
“We’d like to make it an annual thing if the community supports us,” Hise said.