Justin Erickson never believed he’d meet his idol — BMX legend Mat Hoffman. But on Saturday, his dream became a reality when more than 300 BMX riders, including Hoffman, attended a first-of-its-kind event at Longview’s skatepark.

“They say you should never meet your heroes, but ... that’s actually probably not true because he’s a pretty cool dude,” Erickson said after visiting with Hoffman and getting his autograph. “I have been riding BMX for almost 30 years, and I never imagined that I would meet Mat Hoffman right here in our little town.”

Dodson Action Sports Complex at Ingram Park was host Saturday to the Legends League BMX Jam. The event attracted professional BMXers from across the country to the city, along with a crowd that included about 300 spectators. Hoffman served as a judge for the event.

“We might get to see some people create some history in our sport today with some first-time variations and tricks,” Hoffman said. “This was a really cool idea and concept that they came up with.”

The reason so many professional BMXers came to Longview this weekend is simple: The city’s skatepark is “exceptional,” Hoffman said.

The facility was designed by Morgan Wade, a professional BMX rider who also participated in Saturday’s event. Wade designed the wooden skatepark’s ramps and inclines to serve riders of all skill levels, but it features a design that professional BMXers can truly appreciate.

“It’s amazing how people just love this park,” said Brian Dodson, who led a fundraising effort to build the park and for whom the complex is named. “I know to the normal person it’s hard to understand — to them this is just a skatepark. But you don’t know how awesome this park is unless you know the BMX or skate game. It is one of a kind. People literally drove 20 hours to ride in this event.”

The Legends League BMX Jam was open to all skill levels, but the event was geared toward professional riders. It drew such names as Wade, Cory Berglar and Matty Cranmer along with Hoffman, whom Dodson described as “the Tony Hawk of BMX.”

New Jersey-based professional BMX rider Scotty Cranmer, who holds nine X Games BMX Park medals, hosted the event and streamed it to his YouTube channel, which has 1.7 million subscribers. Cranmer is the brother of Matty Cranmer.

Jayden Mucha, 18, of Rochester, New York, said he was drawn to the jam after hearing about it from Scotty Cranmer.

“There is no better feeling than floating high above the quarter pipe or box jump,” said Mucha, who has been riding since kindergarten. “This park is absolutely incredible. It’s really hard to find a wooden skate park, and this one is just built absolutely perfect.”

For Erickson, the opportunity to see riders such as Hoffman was priceless. He described the event as putting Longview “on the map” in the BMX community.

“Brian Dodson and the city working together to get us a legitimate park is really cool,” Erickson said. “It’s just nice to see this vibe and this scene that I have been chasing for years, that’s grown and died off over the years. It’s cool to have it all back here like this. It’s a real good vibe.”

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Michael Cavazos is a multimedia journalist specializing in photography. A Kilgore native, he studied photography at Kilgore College and Stephen F. Austin State University. Michael enjoys visually documenting life in East Texas.