A photographic documentary slideshow covering one of the summer’s best traveling events: The Down and Derby Party.

Photographed by MICHAEL CASKER

What comes to mind when you think of roller skating? Personally, I think of cute shorts, tall socks, hoop earrings, Topher Grace and then… I think about the actual physical practice of putting four wheels beneath my feet and kicking off onto concrete. Although most of us know roller skating in this way — cute, decade inspired clothes combined with awkward movement — Americans actually discovered the sport in 1881 when it was growing in popularity around Britain. As early as 1884, roller skating was becoming organized in the states and races were already starting to take place. Back then, people didn’t just skate around in circles and listen to good tunes, they put one foot in front of the other with arms wailing about, knocking anyone in their way over to be the first glider crossing the finish line (think of that movie Drew Barrymore directed, but with not as developed padding).

This summer, a traveling “Down and Derby Roller” party has been making its way across select cities. When it stopped in Brooklyn, I had to go and experience this for myself. I thought it was a good idea — let’s add the elements of a skating rink, drinks, 20 somethings who barely know how to skate, costumes, disco queens and hard-core derby chicks into one circle and see what happens. In 1885, New York City held a six-day “go-as-you-please” competition at Madison Square Garden that included 36 skaters competing for $500. In the end, there were two deaths — the winner and another skater who died shortly after the race was completed. I figured, if that happened and only two people died, then I would be fine to experience this Down and Derby party. The odds were in my favor, after all.

So with just one night and over 100 skaters, I dressed up with my friends in our best American Apparel ’70s ensembles, headed down to Dekalb Market and put skates on my feet. I’m not going to lie. I was no good (at all). However, as you will see in this photographic documentary of the night, others were more at grace with their wheels, more dressed up for the occasion and, in the end, responsible. Not a single death! I was able to ask the founder of this traveling party, Vince Masi, a few questions about what inspired him to start such a thing. See what he had to say below, but first, I’ve listed some of my favorite parts about the event. — Rachel Eleanor Sutton

THE BEST PARTS OF MY DOWN AND DERBY PARTY EXPERIENCE:

-The fashion the hard-core chicks were dressed in: mini, metallic shorts, bodysuits and extreme attitudes.

-Making it through the party on my skates with drink in hand and not spilling (turns into a bit of a game).

-The overly tipsy disco goers lying atop each other in the middle of the skating circle as people flew by them (fearless).

-The fact that the “rink” was not concrete, but actually just wooden boards stapled together, making it super easy (even for the best skaters) to fall flat on their faces.

-Good music.

-Watching people stumble in and out of the port-a-potties on wheels.

-The innocent bystander that got plowed into and broke his glasses.

-The fact that overall, everyone had a great time.

SHK: WHAT GAVE YOU THE IDEA TO BEGIN DOWN & DERBY ROLLER DISCO?

VINCE MASI: My old business partner came to visit me in NY and told me he wanted to do a roller disco in Pittsburgh, where we are from. I took him to Rhe Roxy, cause at the time they had Wednesday skate nights (before they closed in ’08 or something). The Roxy was more about skating, and not parting, so we took what we liked from their concept and added it with the influence of New York’s mega party Motherfucker and Pittsburgh’s raw space party Flux and created what is Down & Derby today.

WHAT CITY IS THE CRAZIEST?

New York, of course. Though Denver and Vegas give New York a run for its money. Every city is super fun, and it’s always the same vibe of really good times and really happy people.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT THE EVENTS?

The people who come to the events all dressed up and super excited to skate. Each month, I have a panic attack that no one will show up and then the waves and waves of attendees show up dressed in their Down & Derby gear and have so much fun.

WORST INJURY?

Couple broken wrists, but the worst may have been in Vegas. A girl fell and knocked her two front teeth out. Kind of a buzz kill.

FUNNIEST STORY YOU HAVE FROM YOUR TIME WITH D & D?

Our 5th year anniversary we wanted to do something special, but I’m always under budget restraints so I’m always looking for something creative. In May of last year I kept seeing a video called “Sexy Saxman” where this sax player would ambush people and play “Careless Whisper” by George Michael. The video was getting like a million views a week. I somehow found this kids contact and booked him to play Down & Derby. I also bought a ton of inflatable saxophones for attendees, which was a huge hit. So around midnight we q’ued the Careless Whisper video on all the screens and the Sexy Sax man busted out from behind the stage to a gang of screaming girls, who acted like it was actually George Michaels, armed with their inflatable saxophones as the sax man wailed on his instrument running through the crowd. It was hilarious.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE TAKE AWAY FROM THE EVENT? 

I hope people have a really good time and that they leave feeling like they would have paid double for experience we have created for them.

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