The blessings of living in rural communities in East Texas are due in part to the unique characteristics of each community. People and places make the community. So it is with Alba-Golden and the surrounding area when it comes to summer sporting activities. This is amply illustrated by four entities: the LET’S ROLL Skating Rink, the Alba-Golden Youth Foundation, Johnsonville Motocross Farm, and the Alba City Park.
“I had a wonderful husband,” stated long-time Alba resident Sandra Hester as she explained the history behind the skating rink. “I had my eye on this property for some time, and we bought it. I then shared my vision with my husband, Nolan, and we made it happen.”
In March 2004, the LET’S ROLL opened for business. As Hester explained, the initial impetus of the endeavor was to provide a place for her four grandchildren to enjoy as well as to work throughout their development into adulthood.
The rink, just north of the FM 1799 and FM 779 intersection in Golden, has become much more than that; it is now a staple of the community. Open Friday and Saturday from 6-10 p.m., LET’S ROLL is a refuge for children of all ages to have fun.
Hester and her five employees provide oversight of the customers. “We have a series of rules, and they are enforced,” she stated. Contemporary Christian, golden oldies and a little country music are played for the skaters. Reminders of proper conduct, such as the Ten Commandments, are posted on the walls. Wi-Fi is purposely unavailable.
Oversight is never more evident than at closing time, when the youngsters are lined up and dispatched to waiting cars once their parents are identified.
“I feel like they are all my kids,” Hester admitted. With her Robinson family roots in the Grit area just west on 779, she offered, “Kids just need a place to come.”
The rink offers a safe, clean, and well-monitored venue. A typical evening will see 100-120 skaters. Schools, churches and families often rent the venue for special events. A charge of $150 secures the rink for two hours and includes the price of 15 skaters. Additional skaters are $3 a head. A short-order menu, arcade and pool tables complete the facility. Families come from as far as Sulphur Springs, Hawkins and Lindale to enjoy the rink.
Although her four grandchildren are now leading productive lives on their own, Hester intends to open the doors of the LET’s ROLL as long as she is able.
As Dale Sutton, president of the Alba-Golden Youth Foundation, explained, “Unlike some of our neighboring communities, our youth foundation administers spring baseball and softball as well as Pee Wee football and Little Dribblers’ basketball programs.” The slate keeps a bevy of volunteers and the foundations’ seven-man board busy all year round.
About 200 Alba-area youngsters are playing in the youth leagues of the Texas Teenage Baseball/Softball Association. Through the much-appreciated assistance of Alba-Golden school, the foundation uses the high school softball field as one of the diamonds. The foundation owns a small adjacent diamond but must play their 14 and under home games in Mineola.
“We need about 20 acres somewhat centrally located,” Sutton said. Plans have already been drafted for a four-diamond complex that would accommodate all age groups and be optimized for tournament play. Sutton has discussed a grant possibility with the Texas Rangers Baseball Club, should a willing seller be identified.
Sutton, who has four children playing spring ball, understands the value of organized baseball and softball on youth development. “I am a 1996 Mineola grad,” he stated, “and benefitted directly from the efforts of people like Mike Bowles and George Melvin. When I see youngsters who I have coached and their faces light up, it makes all the work worthwhile.”
About four times a year, the buzzing of bass boats around Lake Fork is trumped by the sound of high performance motorcycle engines. Located off of County Road 1900 between the east and west reaches of Lake Fork, Johnsonville Motocross Farm hosts American Motorcycle Association (AMA) sanctioned races. Proprietors Cole and April Johnson have made a name for themselves by developing a competitive motocross track of the highest quality.
What began as Cole Johnson’s personal hobby slowly and surely evolved into the success that is Johnsonville today. After being prodded by friends and fellow racing enthusiasts, the Johnsons opened Johnsonville in September 2011.
Improvements to the course continue apace, as the Johnsons do all the design, dirt work and improvements themselves. It is a labor of love.
The approximately one mile circuit features numerous motocross challenges, including jumps, doubles, one triple, tabletops, and two whoops. The track is loamy dirt mixed with sand, an excellent combination for the sport.
This year Johnsonville hosted three days of the Loretta Lynn Qualifiers, an AMA national level race. Approximately 1,000 people attended. Round one of the MotoMasters Vet Series was also held at Johnsonville in March. Round six of MotoMasters is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 21.
The MotoMasters event includes all levels of skill, beginners to professionals, and a range of engine sizes from 51cc to 450cc. Unmodified or “limited” bikes will also be raced. Admission for spectators is $10.
Mitigating race dangers remains at the forefront of the Johnson’s planning. “We have paramedics at every event,” Johnson stated, “and we use a number of flaggers to alert the racing field of any difficulties on the circuit.”
April Johnson voiced great appreciation of the community involvement before and during race weekends, comparing the local effect to that of a big fishing tournament. She commented, “We receive just great community support,” and she cited Pam Lee, manager of the Scenic 515 Cabins, as an example of that support.
“We welcome anyone in the community to come out to the races – just give me a call,” she proudly offered.
The Alba City Park just east of Highway 69 is getting quite a facelift. A state grant will allow replacement and refurbishment of the playground equipment and mulching of the whole area.
Additionally, a concrete walking path should be completed this June, once the spring rains stop and allow finishing ground work. The path will have easy access for strollers and wheelchairs, and will loop the whole area.
City Secretary Lindy McCarty noted that the park improvements are designed to benefit the young and the old in the community.