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Kowabunga, dude...Name approved for skatepark

It took about a year to find a home for the proposed Perham skate and bike park, and about ten minutes to name the facility--despite momentary opposition.

"Kowabunga" was the name chosen by the kids and young adults that are raising funds for the skate park. The skateboard and BMX bicycle park will be located just south of the softball fields and north of the city shop, with the recreational trail bordering its north and west sides.

The location of the park generated controversy, when earlier proposals called for a location near a residential area.

Another controversy surfaced--though briefly--over the "Kowabunga" name.

"Atrocious" and "horrible" were the reactions to the name "Kowabunga" by Councilmember Harriet Mattfeld.

"In the long run, I think they're going to be sorry they named it that," said Mattfeld at the August 11 Perham City Council meeting.

The derivation of the slang word "Kowabunga" also came under discussion. The word has come into popular use after the television programs "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "The Simpsons."

But several baby boomers in the council chambers were surprised to learn that "Kowabunga" dates to the "Howdy Doody" show, back in the earliest days of television in the late 1950's.

"The kids (who chose the name) knew nothing of Howdy Doody," said Trish McClellan, a parent who has been active in raising funds for the park.

As far as what the word "kowabunga" means, nobody even ventured a guess at the council meeting. But according to the dictionary, kowabunga is "an exclamation of delight or satisfaction." Further, the slang word is traced to an exclamation of surprise and anger by Chief Thunderthud in "The Howdy Doody Show." The term was also used by surfers in the 1960s as a shout of triumph. "Kowabunga" spread worldwide in 1990 by use in the TV cartoon "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

Perham skateboarder Brendan Lauer is credited with suggesting the winning "kowabunga" name for the park. He won a certificate for a free t-shirt. The skatepark group is also planning a "design the t-shirt contest "using the name."

Kowabunga was one of three names selected by a group of about two dozen skateboard youth. Another was "Oompa Loompa Factory," inspired by the Willie Wonka candy factory story and movies.

The third idea, which gained more favor from the adults, was "Area 51," because the park borders County Road 51 on the northwest side of Perham.

Councilman Jim Johnson made a point at the park board meeting that the kids needed to be aware that, "if they select that name, it could be a problem when they go to solicit funds from a conservative audience."

Since the kids will be the ones raising nearly all of the money for the park, Councilwoman Anita Mycke made a motion to go along with the kids' selection of "Kowabunga Skate and Bike Park."

The motions carried--with Mattfeld voting no.