Right from the beginning Chris Clark knew he was overmatched.
Entering his first cross country bicycle race at the age of 12 in his home state of New Jersey, Mr. Clark was more interested in the trail rather than the racing.
“I wasn’t focused on winning the race. I was more focused on the terrain and how I would negotiate the roots and paths,” he said.
So he turned his attention to the sport of observed trials, also called stunt mountain biking. He and some friends entered a contest, where again he didn’t do so well. In fact, he did terribly.
“I finished in last place. This was back before the days of YouTube where I had no way to gauge what my ability was compared to professional riders,” Mr. Clark said.
“It was certainly an eye-opening experience.”
Mr. Clark then spent the winter practicing all aspects of riding and studying videos of the greats in order to better understand the skills and techniques needed for trials competition.
The preparation paid off as he won his first beginner class race in Mount Snow, Vermont, and then moved up to the intermediate class with a perfect score in his next race.
He went on to become the National Cycling Association’s youngest professional rider at the age of 15, competing in more than 50 national events and was a member of the American team to compete at the world championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain.
These days, Mr. Clark, 32, has developed a bicycle stunt show, which will return to the Dover Days Festival May 1 and 2.
Along with maneuvering his bike over his custom built ramps and obstacles, he also will talk about the dedication and passion it takes to achieve the heights that he has — both literally and professionally.
“The show is less about danger than it is about finding your passion and then working hard to get good at it — whatever it may be,” said Mr. Clark, who also appeared at Dover Days in 2012 and 2013.
“My mother can watch this show and not be nervous because she knows that everything is thought out and precisely planned.”
Mr. Clark takes pride in the fact that in all the years he’s been performing in the sport, he’s never broken a bone. Safety is stressed so much in the show and in his riding, that he is sponsored by Bell Helmets.
He said it surprises most people to learn that he wasn’t a daredevil type of kid growing up.
“I was never the kind who would jump my bike off a roof or anything like that, he said.
“That’s the thing about this sport. Riders walk through the whole course and plot every move and how they are going to fall if they do. It’s just a matter of taking stock of your surroundings and working through everything very carefully.”
That safety is stressed in his 20-minute shows.
“Everything is a progression. We start from doing a front wheely and then a back wheely and going bigger from there in a safe progression. I show why I still warm up doing the same moves I did when I was a kid,” he said.
Along with proper safety techniques, Mr. Clark’s show is all about good decisions and what is possible through hard work and a healthy lifestyle.
“It’s all about the idea of unplugging from the TV and the computer and getting out and doing something you love,” Mr. Clark said.
“It’s about making smart decisions on Friday night so you can go out Saturday morning and be your best.”
Shows, in the Kids Zone near Legislative Avenue, will held on Friday evening, May 1 at 6 and 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 2 at 1 and 2:30 p.m.
Following the show, audience members will have the opportunity to meet Mr. Clark, get free autographs and enter to win his bike, valued at more than $3,500.
After every season, he gives his bicycle away to one attendee to the scores of shows he does each year. Last summer alone, he visited 42 states.
“This has really been a great gig and I’m still very much enjoying it,” he said.
The stunt show is one of many events to take place at this year’s Dover Days Festival, covering the gamut from history to sports and music to crafts.
“The Dover Days Festival really belongs to the people of Delaware,” said Cindy Small, executive director of Kent County Tourism, producer of Dover Days.
“While it enjoys 82 years of history and tradition, we aim to provide activities for all ages. Chris has been a big draw for kids, families and young adults when we’ve hosted him in the past. If a young person comes for the stunt bicycle show, and they happen to learn something about Delaware history in the process, we’ve accomplished one of our goals.”
For more on this year’s festival, pick up the official program for the event in Sunday’s Delaware State News or visit www.DoverDaysFestival.com.
Another Kent County favorite festival will be here before you know it.
The 37th annual June Jam will start at noon on June 14 at the G&R Campground on Gun & Rod Club Road in Houston.
Headlining the event this year will be Michael Allman, son of rock great Gregg Allman. Touring the country for years, Michael Allman is spreading the Allman family’s passion with a blend of roots, rock and blues.
Also appearing is Maryland country singer Sam Grow, who has appeared several times at Dover’s Cowboy Up nightclub, along with local favorites The Ashley Mitchell Band, Bad JuJu Blues, Kategory 5, Results May Vary and Shades of August.
There will be raffles, 50/50 drawings and a silent auction along with crafts and games for children, vendors and food available. The beneficiaries for this year will include The Friends of Delaware Veterans along with several other local charitable organizations.
Tickets can be purchased in advance for $28 until May 1 at which time the price increases to $31. Tickets also can be purchased at the gate, which opens at 10 a.m., for $35. Children’s tickets are $10 for ages 5-12 and free for younger than 5.
Tickets are available at Mainstay Suites in Dover from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., B&B Music in Dover, Lewes and Salisbury, Maryland; Panasystems in Georgetown and at www.junejam.com.
‘Pirates’ dance into Schwartz
The Delaware Dance Alliance will present “Pirates of the Caribbean Ballet” at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Schwartz Center for the Arts, 226 S. State St., Dover.
Tickets are available at the Schwartz Center box office, online at www.schwartzcenter.com or call (302) 678-5152.
The story is told through dance by students of various Delaware and Maryland dance studios.
Artistic director Michele Xiques choreographed the show based off the movie, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” The sword fighting/combat scene was done with the help of performers Abigail Gaunt and Austin Gardner. Michelle Parisi choreographed The Pub Scene.
Allison Wilkins, senior at Milford High School, and Monica Starr, professional ballerina from Milford, share portraying the part of Elizabeth, who manages to get herself into many compromising situations which lead her to being kidnapped by dangerous pirates, marooned on an island and having her heart stolen by two men.
The Delaware Dance Alliance is home to the First State Dance Academy at 107 South Maple Ave., Milford.
‘Little Mermaid’ in Milford
Also this weekend, The Diamond Dance Company presents the original ballet production of “Tale of the Little Mermaid” Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. at the Milford High School Theater, 1019 N. Walnut St.
This original ballet is under the direction of Misty Yencer, Kimmie Noll-Price and Aimee Voshell-String.
Tickets are $20 for premium seats, $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.
‘Spamalot’ at Second Street
Also in Milford, Second Street Players will present “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” today through Sunday and May 1, 2 and 3. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com or by calling the box office at (800) 838-3006. All performances will be held at the Riverfront Theater, 2 S. Walnut St.
The original 2005 Broadway production won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Opening this weekend in theaters is the World War II comedy drama “Little Boy” and the romantic drama
“The Age of Adaline.”
On DVD and video starting Tuesday is the Kevin Hart comedy “The Wedding Ringer”; Jennifer Lopez in the thriller “The Boy Next Door”; Mark Wahlberg in the remake of “The Gambler”; the crime drama “Inherent Vice”; and the family film “Paddington.”