Billet brings motocross show to Craig
At the start of Henry Billet’s Warrior Freestyle Extreme Stunt Show on Sunday in the Moffat County Fairgrounds parking lot, he asked his motocross riders to show the 150-person crowd where motocross freestyle came from.
The sport evolved in the desert, Billet said, with kids who built their own ramps out of plywood and launched themselves and their bikes into the air.
“You gotta remember, even hitting a ramp and landing 70 to 75 feet would have been big,” the Warrior Freestyle promoter said.
Things have changed, though.
Billet let out a throat-curdling yell.
“Now, let’s get crazy,” he blasted into the microphone.
The music started, rider Anthony Murray did a high-speed black flip over Billet’s head and the crowd roared.
It seemed just a little odd to Billet’s mother, Shirley Pennington, 53, who remembered where her son came from.
The motocross ringmaster was a quieter child, raised in Craig until he graduated from Moffat County High School in 1997.
“I think they’re all crazy,” Pennington said. “I think it’s going to hurt when they’re older and they fall down.”
But that doesn’t keep her from being “immensely” proud of how her son has turned a hobby he loved into a successful business.
“I am very proud of him, and always have been,” Pennington said. “All of my friends that know him well, they’re all as proud as I am.”
For Billet, a homecoming show in Craig is never as big as many of the others he organizes across the southwest.
All the same, that doesn’t matter to him.
“You look out into the crowd, and see the faces of people you went to school with or knew growing up,” he said. “It’s kind of neat to be able to bring this to Craig, to Grand Olde West Days, for everybody to see in person. It’s fun to be able to show family and friends how you’ve grown up.
“This is one of our smaller markets, but it’s probably one of the most fun because of the roots that me and Josh have,” Billet added, referring to Warrior Freestyle co-owner Josh McCollum, who graduated from Moffat County in 1995.
The smaller crowds don’t matter for the riders, either.
Toby Whittington, a 31-year-old professional who Billet affectionately called “the elder ambassador,” said he loves bringing his sport to small towns who turn out to cheer.
“I ride the same for 20 people as I do for 40,000,” Whittington said. “There are people out there. That’s what motivates us.”
Whittington has been a part of freestyle since its inception, and began his career much like Billet described to the crowd.
“I was watching TV the very first time someone hit a ramp, and I said, ‘We can do that,'” he said. “So we built a ramp that week. That’s how I still look at it; that’s how all of us look at it. Anytime we see a new trick, we go out and try to do it.”
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