It’s mid-morning on Saturday, January 21st, and an array of rails, boxes, and the sort lay waiting in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, QC. A few people mingled around, tending to an assortment of tasks, and it was hard to imagine how the scene would unfold in a few hours. The second annual Ojo Fest was about to turn this place into the best kind of mayhem possible, the kind that brings a smile to your face. 

Ojo Fest is a celebration of Dillon Ojo and his beautiful legacy. His infectious energy brought people together and you could feel it that day as snowboarders arrived en masse from as close as the nearby neighbourhoods of Montreal, to as far as Vancouver, Portland, Connecticut and Italy. To add to the excitement, it was also the park’s opening day for this winter season. Thanks to the ongoing hard work of the Dillon Ojo Lifeline Foundation and Vans Canada, the Dillon Ojo Snow Park is a tangible component of his legacy that helps to break down financial barriers to snowboarding by offering a free facility in the city. We need more of this! Dillon’s vision of snowboarding is inclusive and the park brings this into reality. 

The day kicked into gear with the Seen Snowboarding meet-up. Kennedi (Deck), Jake (Kuzyk), Mikaela (Kautzky), Tanner (Pendleton) and crew set-up the coolest feature of the day and got right to it. Colourfully decorated closet doors opened onto a dance floor box, complete with a disco ball above. Snowboard boots were on deck for folks to borrow, and snowboards were passed around to make sure everyone got to try.  

Kennedi Deck [o] Joseph Roby

In classic Ojo fashion, pizza was on-site to keep everyone fuelled for hiking and hanging before getting into the afternoon cash-for-tricks component. Five bucks doesn’t get you a whole lot nowadays but that little blue bill waving at the bottom of the park had the ability to, in a handful of cases, turn off the rational part of the brain. Kennedi (Deck) was in charge of distributing said cash and generously handed it out in response to anything exciting, which there was a lot of. 

The actual snowboarding experience of the day was a delicate dance between complete chaos and perfect harmony. It would have been difficult to have any more people snowboarding than there was, and I say that in the best way possible. It was epic. Bobbing and weaving, riding as close to your friends as you can – that shit is actually unbeatable. The French Fragrance crew provided some highlight moments in this category by dropping near 10-heads-deep with snowboards practically touching. The Rude Girls were lighting it up, Mt.Mtn homies brought the west-coast flavour, and of course, it wouldn’t be Ojo Fest if The Bruners weren’t there to hold it all down. 

Westley Willyam was out there chomping and got DJ’s Choice for the 2nd year in a row. The kid has it! Honing down an MVP became increasingly difficult as the day progressed due to the sheer magnitude of incredible snowboarding that was happening. There could only be one, though, and this year's title went to Michael Modesti. Oversized cheques redeemable at Apt.200 were awarded for their efforts.

All in all, it was a day for the record books. Old friends caught up, new friends were made, and everyone rode their snowboards together until the sun began to hit the horizon. The celebrations continued with vigor and corona’s flowed smoothly into the wee hours of the morning. I’m already looking forward to next year, and I’m sure everyone else who was there feels the same. Making these memories for Dillon, with Dillon, was and will continue to be a special experience. Thanks again to Vans Canada and the Dillon Ojo Lifeline Foundation for making this legendary day happen. Ojo Forever! 

by Jj Westbury

photos by Joseph Roby

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