Taking The Reins: Trey Jones On The Florideah Swamp Fest
The story behind that epic no-budget DIY jam...
Words and photos by Rob Dolecki
If you didn't attend the Florideah Swamp Fest in March, you missed out. A full weekend of camping, riding absurd concoctions constructed out of pallets and items typically found in the “Free” category on Craigslist, as well as meticulously groomed trails and a free-for-all atmosphere that stuck to a loose day schedule, where timed runs did not exist. Night festivities that included bands, a Banned 5 video premiere, chillin’ by a bonfire, and of course, fireworks. It was sort of like taking a time machine back to a Ghetto Street Comp in the early 2000s, or Woodstock. It was awesome. And it was made possible thanks to the hard work, organizational skills, and dedication of Mr. Trey Jones and crew.
There are a number of reasons why Trey should be lauded. I’m not just talking about his uncanny style for thinking outside the box on his bike, or his impressive mid-school BMX trivia knowledge. Spending months on end hauling pallets in his Ford pickup truck, rallying the troops to get the course finished in time, running the day as smooth as any energy drink-sponsored event, losing his voice in the process, and not to mention giving all the money raised to Scotty Cranmer in order to help with the costs of his recovery. He’s a prime example of taking things into your own hands and making it happen, on your own terms. Trey is the man.
"There was a ten year-old kid who did a 360 to fakie during the jam, and everyone was just as stoked as Van Homan doing an over-ice on the spine; that was so awesome."
So Trey, why did you decide to put on the Swampfest?
Before, we did a jam called Banned In The Backyard five years ago. I’ve always wanted to do another one. We had it at Matt Shaw’s house, but it was too much for him. It’s really hard to find 10 acres that someone will let you have for free for a few months to build stuff on. Once Jeff Hunnicut bought 10 acres out in Geneva, I told him we should do a jam there. He was 100% into it; I started bringing stuff out there. It went through some name changes. Everyone always talks about how “BMX needs this, BMX needs that.” Some of my favorite memories growing up were going to the BACO contests at Mesh. Whenever you are in a room with a thousand people and everyone is going crazy, that is an experience you’ll never forget. The Texas Toast comps, it brought everyone together. You had guys from like Edwin and Hoder to guys like Greg Illingworth all together in the same place. They just want to be there, not for prize money. Whenever you’re around someone, even if you don’t know the person, you watch them ride and you understand them more, “Oh, he’s a cool guy.” It brings everyone together. I love doing it, and am willing to work for it to make it happen.
You mentioned the BACO jams before; how did they inspire you?
Even before the BACO contest, it was the Roots jam. For Central Florida that was the biggest thing as far as people coming to Florida for an event. I remember being ten or eleven and seeing Morgan Wade icepick the roof. If you’ve been to a jam and you’ve experienced that eruption of people all for one common thing, you know that feeling, and that’s irreplaceable. It’s bigger than just riding. The Roots jams really kickstarted it. As a rider, the BACO jams were the ones. It was where I grew up, and to see guys like Dave Freimuth and Kevin Porter, all these older dudes coming to my area and killing it- it was life-changing. Those moments where it gets so intense and you see something awesome goes down, all the politics and drama go away, and everyone is just stoked on one thing.
How did the ideas for the course setup come about?
It wasn’t really something we set out to do.
You didn’t have any CAD drawings based on pallets and scrap wood? (Laughter)
First off we didn’t have the money. Why would I spend 25,000 dollars or however much it costs for a normal event for 200 people, when you could spend 2000 for an event and affect 1500 people. I also like the fact that it’s almost comical what you are riding on. There’s a jet-ski lying there, and even a double peg down it is wild. A perfect box jump, you have to do something crazy on it to be impressive. It’s easier and more realistic. Kids want to ride perfect things. This toughens you up. It’s a way for kids to ride everything; you can ride garbage and still have fun. It’s the most realistic way of doing a jam?
Was there any planning for all the pieces of the course? Where did they come from?
Not really. It all started out where I would go on Craigslist and look for free pallets. I found a few spots by my house where I could get pallets regularly. If I saw something that was big in size on the side of the road or dumpster and we could use it, I would grab it. It was kind of like, “Hey, we want to build a sub-rail. What do we have? Ok, we have two dryers, a tree that fell down, some pallets, a door…” We would make it work. Once we started building stuff and people started going to Jeff’s, people would be like, “Oh, you want a couch?” So many people just wanted to help, and even if they couldn’t lend a hand, they would scout stuff out. We also got some ramps from the Sparky’s jam. It was pretty cool to recycle the wood from that.
"Whenever you are in a room with a thousand people and everyone is going crazy, that is an experience you’ll never forget."
What was the most-used part of the course?
Definitely the tall spine. I didn’t think that would be a thing. When we started building, everyone said we should build a loop, but that was too much work, and a lot of pallets. Then we started thinking of an open loop. We decided to build an enormous spine as a landing out of convenience. The ramp jam unfolded way differently. I built a deck for people to drop in on, and I don’t think anyone stood on it the entire jam. Everyone was in the middle of everything, spectators in the middle of the course. It brought more of a togetherness-vibe; you were standing there looking at Van doing an over-ice. It was funny- when we built it, we were calling out all these tricks that certain people would do, and it ended up happening.
What was the least-used part?
The van. It got used as a big spectating bench. Which sucked, since that’s the only thing I actually spent money on. Jabe (Trey's brother) and I towed that van from like an hour away with Jabe’s truck and it was a nightmare. The jam was awesome, so I can’t really complain about anything.
How many pallets were used in the construction?
The two big quarters alone are over a hundred pallets each. We used probably close to a thousand pallets. We have a guy named Chris Harold who is a roofing contractor, and he got the hookup a few times with a semi-truck of pallets. Every time I drove to Jeff’s I bought 25 pallets. I usually got them by myself. It was totally worth it. It was a lot of work. If you want a jam to be good, you gotta put the effort into it to make it happen.
What was the most stressful part of the day?
The fact of not knowing. Not knowing how many people were going to show up, not knowing where we were going to park people, not knowing if we were going to have enough wrist bands, not knowing if the cops were going to shut it down. The cops showed up at 8AM. I was like, “This is going to suck if it all gets shut down now.” It was all a mystery. If we do it gain, we know what to expect. We know the system now. The working aspect of it was easy.
Was the turnout better than you expected?
Kinda. I thought 1000 people would show up, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. turned out there was 1300 people, so it was more than expected.
What did you think of all the jumps getting tagged up the night before the jam?
Ryan Herbach told me he was gonna tag the jumps like 2 weeks ago, so when I woke up the morning of the jam I couldn't help but laugh.
Is any part of the course going to stay, besides the jumps?
We want to expand the jumps into more lines. As far as the ramps, realistically a lot of stuff won’t last much longer. That stuff wasn’t meant to last. It’s all up to Jeff. He wants to keep the curved wallride. Hopefully if we do it again, we can use a lot of it for next year.
"The two big quarters alone are over a hundred pallets each. We used probably close to a thousand pallets."
What was the wildest thing that you saw go down?
I didn’t really get to see a lot of things since I was running around all day. Someone told me Gary Young 360ed all the jumps; I didn’t see that at all. As far as building something, probably Colt Fake’s back rail fufanu. That was something that I didn’t even know if it was possible. McDermott and I were like, “we should build a sub-rail out of a tree.” So we went back in the woods and cut down a tree. We didn’t even know how to build it. Once we built it, I was like, “I don’t know.” It was so sketchy. Of course, Colt is the one who pulled it off, as usual.
Who was the crew that was behind the whole event?
Obviously Jeff Hunnicut is the main dude, since it’s his house and he let everything go on; that’s the biggest thing. Ryan Herbach and Joey Juaristi were on the jumps and built everything. We had so many people coming out and lending a hand on the jumps, like Matt Olson who was there for a month. Fifty-Fo too. Dave McDermott helped so much with all the ramp stuff and figuring it all out. Scott Bledsoe and his family helped out a ton. I don’t want to leave anyone out. There was just so many people. Literally every weekend we went out there, there was a huge crew. It’s hard to just nail down a few people.
How did the rail across the lake come about?
Ryan Sher from Subrosa wanted to do something with a rail. He came out, we were looking around, and the course was packed already. I asked him how many rails we could connect together. He said it was infinite, and I was like, “Yo, we should do one across the lake.” He asked if it was possible, and I said, “I’ll make it possible. I will get in that water and figure out a way to make this thing ride-able.” It was nine rails, like 74 feet. It was the longest length of Subrosa rails put together that Ryan knows of. One person got across it, Noah Monroe; it was cool because Noah is a local kid around here. It was so ridiculous and fun. People didn’t even care about making it across; they just wanted to fall in the water. It was definitely the highlight of the jam.
How high did Cody Diggle roast all of the jumps?
3-4 feet higher than everyone else at least, and he was the first person to grab a shovel and help, which kicked ass!
Was Matt Olson nuts for sending a double flip on the trick jump?
He told me he was gonna try it a few days before. I thought he could pull it. It was for sure a scary moment.
Some old guy named Vin Boman or something was awarded Ramp Rider Of The Day; how is he still winning awards?
Ha, ha, I have no idea; he keeps doing badass shit!
Were you concerned that the the post-jam bonfire would get out of hand at all like at Banned In The Backyard?
Not at all, because we were prepared, ha ha. I knew what not to do from experience of the last jam. Keep it away from everything, ha ha.
Who is Paddleboard Keith? Do you think he was one of the stars of the weekend?
He's a legend in his own mind. One of Geneva's finest!
Do you have any plans to continue it?
I was talking with Jeff the other day, and asked him if he wanted to do it again. He was like, “Yeah, why wouldn’t we do it again?” (Ed. note: A few weeks later, Jeff received a notice from the town barring him from holding any more BMX events at his house.) Right now I’m so burnt out and tired from everything. I just need like a month or so to let it all simmer. Hopefully. I truly do believe BMX needs this right now. I love all the events going on, they are awesome. But they are invitational, if you don’t have the right wristband… There was a ten-year old kid who did a 360 to fakie during the jam, and everyone was just as stoked as Van Homan doing an over-ice on the spine; that was so awesome. That made me so incredibly happy. These kids are riding with their heroes. We are all in this together. Yeah, I would like to do another jam.
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