Category Archives: Roller Derby

Spring into Upcoming Events in Cleveland

Springtime in Cleveland

Even our gnome is ready for Spring!

As we March into Spring, eager to trade in those winter coats for short sleeves, Cleveland is full of upcoming events to help shake the winter blahs.

Here are a few I’m looking forward to. Be sure to leave a comment with your picks!

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Clue Into Cleveland: Weekends Edition

My parents discussing model trains with a volunteer at the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum - one of our stops during their whirlwind weekend visit.

When it comes to the weekend, I typically don’t need an excuse to go out and explore. Honestly, I’d say my biggest problem is forcing myself to stay home and do things around the house that need to get done (like this weekend’s project: clean the garden).

Because of this, when I have friends or family in town, I go into Clue-Into-Cleveland overdrive – trying to hunt down places and events in Cleveland that align with each person’s interests.  Suffice it to say, when my parents told me they were coming into town this past weekend, we packed their short visit full of Cleveland fun.

With another weekend kicking off tomorrow, I figured I’d share our adventure in case you were in need of some more ideas.  Fortunately, with the exception of a couple items on the list, a lot of these places are things you can visit anytime of year.

And while we’re on the subject … Where do you like to go on the weekend? I’m always looking for new places to try out so leave a comment at the end of the post with your suggestions! I enjoy mini-roadtrips so even if it’s not in Cleveland-proper, shoot me a line with your recommendation.


The Ohio Pinball Show

Scott, my parents and I started the weekend off by driving out to Cuyahoga Falls on Saturday morning for the 7th annual Ohio Pinball Show. Growing up, my parents had a jukebox and Chicago Cubs pinball machine that I would spend hours playing on.  Along the line, I inherited my parents’ love for the lights and noise of the machines.

We shareed this mutual love with Scott at the show, which offered all-day free play on over 100 machines. For a few hours, Scott and I hopped from a few of the more antique machines to our personal favorites – Dr. Who, Twilight Zone and Last Action Hero. Meanwhile, my parents talked to the vendors and found the jukebox manual they had been searching a long time for. We even happened upon the Die Hard arcade game and played a few levels.  Definitely a winning start.

Saturday's special at Great Lakes Brewery was a corned beef sandwich with cabbage and a fried egg. Paired with a stout, their chips, and beer-cheese sauce, this was a perfect lunch.

Great Lakes Brewing Company and Ohio City

Playing that much pinball made us hungry, so we took my parents over to Ohio City. After showing them West Side Market and a few of the neighborhood’s sights, we decided on Great Lakes Brewing Company for lunch. Since watching Robert Stack in the Untouchables as a child, my mom’s had a fascination with Eliot Ness. And recently she’s been reading up on his days in Cleveland. Even though they’re only rumored to have come from his gun, the bullet holes at the Brewery were on my mom’s list of something to see.

We not just got to see that, but we enjoyed GLBC’s sandwich of the day – delicious corned beef with fried egg, as well as their mac and cheese. My mom who doesn’t really like beer discovered she loved their Porter, and after sampling a bottle of beer named after my mom’s favorite Prohibition agent, my dad was drinking Eliot Ness the rest of the weekend.

My dad quickly brought himself up to speed on the rules of roller derby by reading the Burning River Roller Girls' program.


Burning River Roller Girls

Saturday was capped off with the specific reason my parents chose this weekend to visit Cleveland: Burning River Roller Girls. After talking up roller derby for the last year, my parents were determined to see a match. For Saturday’s doubleheader, we sat right behind the players’ benches. This was the first time we’ve sat on that side of the arena and so close to the action. It gave my parents a really great perspective of what was happening on the track and we were able to watch the coaches and players in between jams calling line ups and plays.

Although there’s no derby this weekend — the BRRG have a second match this month on April 30th when the Steamers take on the Rolling PinUps and the Hellbombers take on the Hardknockers.

At the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum in Mentor, you can not only watch but also play with a couple aspects of their platform. The pictured button allows you to operate the pushcar.

Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum

After seeing a mention on Positively Cleveland’s blog about the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum, we knew this was a can’t-miss stop for my parents’ weekend tour. Collectors of the American Flyer gauge trains, my parents are always interested in anything to do with model trains (and with Scott’s and my burgeoning HO platform we’re right there with them).

The Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum is based out in Mentor – perfect for a leisurely Sunday drive. Its 19,000 square foot facility houses 26 different gauges of trains on tracks that are constantly growing and changing. So even if you’ve been before, go back because you’re apt to see something different.

One of my favorite things about the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum were the humorous touches, including this show down between a little green man and the military.

Regardless of whether you collect model trains or have children who enjoy toy trains, I highly recommend visiting the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum. Building and maintaining these platform layouts is an art that the volunteers at Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum have worked hard to develop. Additionally, they know how to have fun with the platforms – with a number of non-realistic elements thrown in for good measure (my favorite was the little green men invading the military airport).

However, as we learned when we were there on Sunday, the Museum is suffering the same problem a lot of other non-profits are – due to government cuts, a number of grants have been withdrawn. Between this and the museum’s policy to offer free admission, they’re in the unfortunate position where they need donations to stay open.  They are running a single-donation and annual pledge campaign right now — so if you are able to support them, check out their website to donate:

A favorite weekend (and weekday) haunt of mine: Gordon Square's Capitol Theatre.

The Capitol Theatre

By this point in the weekend, we were ready to take a break from being on our feet so often so we headed over to one of my favorite movie theaters: the Capitol Theatre in the Gordon Square Arts District. This wasn’t just on our list because their Midnight Cult Classics and Sunday Classics & Brunch series make it an awesome weekend haunt, but also because they were showing Kill The Irishman, the film about real-life Cleveland mobster Danny Greene.

This movie has gotten a lot of accolades and they’re all well-deserved because the cast did a bang-up job in their portrayals (lame puns strike again). As usual, Walken, D’Onofrio and Val Kilmer were fun to watch. And Ray Stevenson – who I loved in HBO’s Rome and can’t wait to see as Volstagg in Thor – managed to make Greene both sympathetic and menacing. Even though it was filmed in Detroit and not Cleveland, all four of us loved the movie and enjoyed the news clips of Cleveland in the 70s.

The new addition to my Happy Dog playbook: Pineapple-Ginger-Currant Chutney with Bacon, Gouda and Bok Choy.

Happy Dog

This brings us to our last stop on my parents’ trip — the one place my mom always asks to visit when she’s in Cleveland: Happy Dog.  Hot dogs are high on her list of favorite foods and Happy Dog has the dish down to an art form.  So much so that my parents and I ordered 2 hot dogs each.  I even got my mom to try the Blueberry Ale they have in bottles there and my dad stuck with his newfound love – GLBC’s Eliot Ness.

While I love brie with garlicky escarole and marcella grape jelly/chile sauce on my dog, I experimented during this last visit and paired their pineapple-ginger-currant chutney with bacon, bok choy and gouda. I might mix up the cheese next time, but the chutney and bacon combo was like a hawaiian pizza on a hot dog — but even better! I’m glad to have added a new combo to my Happy Dog playbook.  


Hands down, this past weekend was one of my favorite visits with my parents. And I can credit that in part to our shared love for exploring Cleveland. Although I’m sad they’ve headed home to Virginia, I’m glad the experience reminded me how #HappyinCLE I am to live here. 

I hope you find your weekend – and weekday – experiences equally enjoyable!

Good Times Roll This Spring with Burning River Roller Girls' 5th Season

Spring is here and that means my favorite sport is back: Roller Derby! The photos in this post are from Metromix Cleve-Lens, photo credit Michael Stein. You can see the entire slideshow at

As I mentioned in my last post, this week’s Twitter Twenty question was “What Does Spring Mean for You?” and over the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

More than anything else, the return of my favorite Cleveland sport means Spring is officially here for me. No, I’m not talking about Indians Spring Training (though I will be excited to take in a game at Progressive after Opening Day).  I’m talking about roller derby!

A week before Spring sprung, Scott and I were at the Wolstein Center to take in the opening doubleheader of the Burning River Roller Girls’ fifth season. Since last season’s incredible Hazard Cup championships in July, the only BRRG roller derby I’ve been able to see in the offseason was the Black and Blue fundraiser in November.

However, I can stop itching for some flat track action, because the Burning River Roller Girls are back with their new season titled “Let the Good Times Roll.”

With modern flat-track roller derby, gone are the days of old school, theatrical antics. What you see when you go to a BRRG bout are female athletes who are dedicated and hardworking.

With their passion for the sport, they’ve rocketed the growth of the league and its fan base since starting five years ago.

As we entered the Wolstein Center for the first time since last season, fans were quickly brought up to speed on a few changes for Season 5, namely an increase in the length of bout halves to 30 minutes each – which means more time for derby!  A lot of the rosters saw changes as well, with some players retiring during the off-season.

I felt like these changes were most evident in The Hellbombers team.  In the first bout of the doubleheader match, the Hellbombers, whose 3-time Hazard Cup record was broken last season by the Rolling Pin-Ups, took on last year’s 4th place team the Cleveland Steamers. However, with a few of the changes to the rosters, the Steamers did extremely well.

It was a very close matchup throughout, with the first three jams going to the Steamers and the score going back and forth throughout the first half.  Although the Hellbombers were up at one point with the score 17-9, killer jams from Killustrator and Cupquake towards the end of the half led to the Steamers taking the lead 36-35 halfway through.

The second half continued to be close with the score tied up 53-53 at the 20-minute mark. However, with a few unfortunate moments such as a rare double power jam (where the Hellbombers’ jammer and the Steamers’ jammer got put in the penalty box during the same jam) and  a called off jam that wasn’t immediately noticed, the Hellbombers got the inch they needed to pull out a lead with the final score 87-83 for the Hellbombers.

Even though the Steamers lost, I personally felt like this was a victory for them.  They played some of the strongest derby I’ve seen them play against a three-time champion and I hope to see that continue throughout the rest of the season.


The Rolling Pin-Ups took on the Hard Knockers in the second bout of the doubleheader. Photos from Metromix Cleve-Lens, photo credit Michael Stein. See the entire slideshow:

While the first bout was a nailbiter, the second bout matching last year’s champions the Rolling Pin-Ups with 3rd place Hard Knockers was a knockout (if you’ll pardon the pun).  With veteran roller girls Punkd Pixie, Eva Lucien and Soul Eater nimbly breaking through their jams, the Pin-Ups quickly racked up the points with the score being 26-00 only a few jams in.

Although the Hard Knockers were able to keep it from being a shut out by scoring 20 points by the end of the first half, the Pin-Ups had already scored 72. Some teams have come back against a point deficit this large and the Hard Knockers were definitely fighting to come from behind; however, the Pin-Ups didn’t let up during the second half, ending with a final score of 138-63.

This bout proved that any roster changes the Pin-Ups made during the off-season didn’t change their gameplay and I expect the incredible momentum the champions had last season to continue this year.

Something that set last weekend’s match apart from ones before is that for the first time I got to enjoy cheering on a roller girl I know off the track – Steamers’ rookie Girl Gone Wilder.  Having a coworker who is also a player drives home the fact that these are real women out there – women who have families, jobs, and live their lives off track just like their fans. For me, the relatability of their everyday lives contrasted with their fierce skills on the track is one of the greatest parts about the sport.

If you missed the ladies’ first match, April is a one-two punch with bouts on Saturday, April 2 and Saturday, April 30.  The four teams will match up against one another as they battle to position themselves for the Semifinals on June 11 and the Championships on July 16. Doors always open at 5pm, with the doubleheader bouts starting at 6pm.

In honor of those who serve our community, the April 2 bout will be Military ID Night and April 30 is Law & Order Night. More information on these discounts, regular ticket pricing and how to purchase tickets can be found at

The good times will definitely be rolling at the Wolstein Center over the next couple of months and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the arrival of Spring than taking in a match.

Burning River Roller Girls 411:

Kudos to Cleveland's Burning River Roller Girls on the success of their APL fundraiser

BRRG's Black and Blue event ended up raising over $5,500 for the Cleveland Animal Protective League. (logos from and

The holidays are often a time to spotlight how organizations have given back to the community, so I wanted to post a quick kudos to the Burning River Roller Girls for the success of November’s Black and Blue Charity event. The BRRG recently announced that the final numbers are in and they were able to raise more than $5,500 that went directly to the Cleveland Animal Protective League.

As a fan who was in the Wolstein Center stands for Black and Blue 5: Fur Brawl, the mashup of the entire league into Team Black vs Team Blue was a lot of fun.  It was definitely a different vibe than the regular season bouts as we watched players who normally compete against one another lace up their skates on the same team. And the halftime Full Contact Musical Chairs — my first time watching this Fresh Meat tradition — was fierce (though I was a little bummed that Girl Gone Wilder, a coworker of mine, was knocked out after they re-did the first round due to an extra chair on the floor).  Check out this video of the event from WEWS/ABC Channel 5.

Despite all of the derby action, the best part about Black and Blue was that we were there to not just celebrate the Burning River Roller Girls’ 5th anniversary, but also to support the Cleveland APL via ticket and raffle sales.  To find out the BRRG were able to raise over $5,500 in support of animals was really great.  Northeast Ohio has a fantastic philanthropic culture — one that often helps the region weather economic storms as noted in a recent Plain Dealer article.  And although that article may have focused on the signficantly large donations made to area organizations in recent years, donating over $5000 from just one event is nothing to sneeze at.

If you want to support the work BRRG is doing in Cleveland to further the cause of roller derby, the 2011 Season Pass is now on sale which includes tickets to all five double-header bouts for only $48. Full ticket and schedule info for ‘Let The Good Times Roll': BRRG Season 5 is below.

2011 Season Schedule
All bouts at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center (2000 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio)
Doors open at 5 PM / Bouts begin at 6 PM
Bout 1:    Saturday, March 12 (Season 5 Opener)
Bout 2:    Saturday, April 2
Bout 3:    Saturday, April 30
Bout 4:    Saturday, June 11   (Semi-Finals)
Bout 5:    Saturday, July 16     (Championship)
Ticket Information
2011 Season Passes:       Season Pass package includes five bout tickets for $48
Regular Admission:           $12 Advance / $17 day of event / $6 for kids age 12 and under
Groups of 10 or more:      $10 per ticket
Available at the Wolstein Center Box Office, online or by phone.
Phone:  1-877-468-4946 
*Fees apply to ticket purchases by phone or online. A service charge applies to each group order.


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Burning River Roller Girls Take to the Track for Black and Blue 5

The Burning River Roller Girls return on Nov. 20 for their annual Black and Blue fundraiser (image from

With the Burning River Roller Girls‘ 2011 season not starting up until March, it’s going to be a long cold winter when it comes to Cleveland roller derby action.  Before then, though, the ladies from the BRRG are lacing up their skates on Nov. 20 for their fifth annual roller derby benefit — Black & Blue 5: The Fur ‘Brawl.’

In November of 2006, the BRRG played their debut bout in Cleveland on Black Friday, an event they dubbed ‘Black & Blue.’ It was a sold-out event that helped the league gain support as they started organizing regular seasonal play. Since then, the Fall fundraiser has been an annual tradition, serving as a way to keep fans excited on the off-season and raise money for local charities. Previous years’ Black & Blue charities have included the Cleveland Food Bank, Aids Task Force of Greater Cleveland, Toys for Tots and Coats for Kids.

This year’s celebration of their 5th anniversary will take place on Saturday, November 20th (the Saturday before Thanksgiving) at the BRRG’s home in the Wolstein Center. As in years past, the league will divide into two large teams – Team Black and Team Blue – for a bout that starts at 6pm (doors open at 5pm). 

At halftime, a ‘Fresh Meat’ rite of passage and a crowd-favorite tradition returns with Full Contact Musical Chairs. The BRRG’s newest recruits will put on their skates and unleash three months of training in a no-rules, no-holds-barred battle royale to grab a seat in the last empty chair.

Tickets for the evening cost $15 for adults ($6 for kids age 12 and younger).  As with their regular season bouts, they can be purchased at the Wolstein Center Box Office, or by phone (877-468-4946).

Part of the Black and Blue proceeds go to support the Cleveland APL (APL logos and images at

A generous portion of the proceeds raised through admission will go to this year’s charity, the Cleveland Animal Protective League. For those not familiar with the Cleveland APL, it’s the largest nonprofit humane society in Northeast Ohio. 

Since 1913, the Tremont-based Cleveland APL has been relying solely on donations to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty and to provide shelter and care for over 10,000 homeless animals a year.  Considering my soft spot for rescued animals (our cat Chloe is a rescue and we’re looking to adopt a dog shortly), supporting the APL with this year’s benefit makes me extremely happy.  Even if I weren’t interested in a roller derby bout, I would have probably shown up just because of whom it’s benefiting.

In honor of this year’s charity, Team Black will represent felines as the Black Alley Cats and Team Blue will skate the court as the Blue Blood Hounds for canines. The APL will also be at the bout with adoptable dogs and their own pet care merchandise for sale.

Although there will be a lot of crowd favorites and traditions from previous Black and Blues, new to this year’s event is the opportunity for two fans to captain the teams. The BRRG recently held two public ebay auctions for the ultimate fan experience: the chance for the winner to pick their ‘dream team,’ develop strategy, create lineups, attend practice, run drills, and coach their players to a victory at the Brawl. The win also came with 15 free tickets and a thank you gift to commemorate the experience. The auction closed a couple of days ago and the winners helped raise an additional $460 for the APL.

Even if you weren’t one of the two auction winners, you can still support the APL by getting tickets for the BRRG’s Nov. 20 Black & Blue 5.  If it’s anything like last season’s championship bout, you’ll not only be supporting a good cause, but also getting an evening full of exciting derby action. I’ll be there, hoping it’s enough to hold me over until March.

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The Burning River Roller Girls – True Cleveland Sports Heroes

A minor pileup at last month's semifinals match between The Hellbombers and Hard Knockers.


Last week, I shared my opinion on the city’s unjustified adoration feeding LeBron James’ egotrip. Of course, on Thursday, we saw how the train went off the tracks with the self-aggrandizing, outlandish circus of  his ESPN ‘Decision’ special.  It was nothing more than a ludicrous publicity stunt which may have been a disappointing night for Cleveland, but was even more devastating for the perception of pro sports.   

Just to clarify, I don’t have a problem with his decision to go to Miami – at its core it was a business decision. Albeit, it was one that I believe demonstrated his immaturity and shortsightedness (I agree with the Orlando Magic GM and other commentators that even if LeBron does win championships in Miami, not being able to do it on his own will keep ‘King James’ from the Jordan-level stature he seems to think he deserves).     

What was pathetic about Thursday, though, was the unnecessary spectacle of it.  Although ‘Decision 2010′ was watched by close to 10M people, it has been criticized by nearly everyone as a rock bottom moment for pro sports, journalism and even society (considering that without the eager audience there wouldn’t have been a need for it).  

The Rolling Pin-Ups line up against The Cleveland Steamers at June's semifinals. The Pin-Ups' victory landed them a spot in Saturday night's finals.


However, the purpose of this post isn’t to add more criticism to how LeBron handled his decision. Instead, the shamelessness of it serves as a sharp contrast to the true athleticism and sportsmanship I had the joy of witnessing this weekend.  For anyone who didn’t catch my updates on Saturday at @ADHicken or Clue Into Cleveland’s facebook page, I’m referring to the Burning River Roller Girls‘ finals.   

The BRRG is Cleveland’s first all-female, skater-owned, flat-track derby league, and on Saturday night the league’s 4 teams battled to determine the season’s Hazard Cup champion.   

If you’re unfamiliar with Cleveland’s roller derby league, you can read my previous overview of the league and recap of their Semifinals.  I’ve been a huge fan since the first time I watched the BRRG women play; however, after the LeBronpocalypse, I’ve gained even more respect for them.  In addition to dishing up 2 epic, nail-biting bouts on Saturday night, the Burning River Roller Girls offer an inspiring substitute to the selfish behavior of many so-called ‘professional’ athletes.     

Saturday night was a doubleheader between The Cleveland Steamers and Hard Knockers, followed by the Hazard Cup championship between The Rolling Pin-Ups and The Hellbombers.  Congresswoman Marcia Fudge blew the opening whistle to the Steamers-Hard Knockers match. A proponent of maintaining an active lifestyle and female athletes, Fudge was also a fitting choice given the derby’s location in her district.  

Heading into Saturday’s match, The Hard Knockers were 0-4 for the season having recently been defeated by the Hellbombers 117-42 in last month’s semifinals. The Cleveland Steamers, on the other hand, were 2-2 – most recently defeated by The Rolling Pin-Ups in June’s other semifinal match.   

Saturday’s match started with the Steamers’ captain Killustrator taking lead jam to put the first three points on the board. The Steamers played a  tight game early on, not allowing the Hard Knockers to score too many points.  However, Mommy’s Little Monster turned the game around for the Hard Knockers when she took lead jam and the Steamers’ jammer got placed in the penalty box. Mommy’s Little Monster worked this power jam to her advantage by racking up an incredible 20 points and flipping the score to 34-21 in favor of the Hard Knockers.   

Although the Hard Knockers suffered a loss against the Hellbombers in last month's semifinals (pictured), they pulled out a victory against the Cleveland Steamers on Saturday.


Although the Steamers tried to close the gap, Mommy’s Little Monster proved a devastating force when more Steamer penalties placed her in two additional power jams where she scored 20 and 14 points, respectively.  Thanks in large part to Mommy’s Little Monster’s 54 point contribution, the Hard Knockers won their first match of the season with an overwhelming 89-49 victory.  

The Hard Knockers’ victory was an excellent start to the evening. However, the main event was the finals match between The Rolling Pin-Ups and The Hellbombers.  Both teams were victorious in last month’s semifinals, so they were set to battle each other for the 2010 Hazard Cup. For the first three seasons of the BRRG league, The Hellbombers have won the Hazard Cup. And leading up to Saturday’s match, they had an undefeated 4-0 record for this season.  However,  The Rolling Pin-Ups headed into the finals with an intense motivation to win. The last time they competed against The Hellbombers in May, they very nearly defeated them with a 47-50 score.  

In the first half of the match, it seemed as if the Pin-Ups weren’t going to be able to stand up to The Hellbombers, who demonstrated jam after jam why they’ve been league champions for three years. The Hellbombers controlled the pace time and again by taking lead jammer, accumulating points, then stopping the jam before the Pin-Ups could make up a lot of ground. By the end of the first half, the Hellbombers held a substantial lead over the Pin-Ups with a score of 48 to 24.  

The second half started off with the Hellbombers’ trio of skilled jammers – Stroker Ace, Gargiulo and CoCo Sparx – scoring 4, 5, and 4 points, respectively.  However, a couple of jams later, the Pin-Ups’ Professor Booty earned lead jammer status.  The Hellbombers’ jammer, on the other hand, tried pushing through a strong Pin-Ups’ defense, but only succeeded in getting penalized.  Reminiscent of the first match, this gave Professor Booty a power jam opportunity to score 16  points and close the gap to 61-45.  Because the Hellbombers’ jammer was still stuck in the penalty box when the next jam started, the Pin-Ups’ Punk’d Pixie was the only jammer on the track and used this to her advantage to score another 20 points putting the Pin-Ups in the lead 65-61.  

Unfortunately for the undefeated Hellbombers, the Pin-Ups’ turnaround occurred so late in the match that the Hellbombers didn’t have much of a chance to recover.  As the Pin-Ups skated to a shocking victory, the crowd in the Wolstein Center erupted with chants and cheers for the first-time Hazard Cup champions.  

The Rolling Pin-Ups: BRRG's 2010 Hazard Cup Champions


Although the back-to-back underdog victories provided some of the most exciting athleticism I’ve experienced in a while, the Burning River Roller Girls continually demonstrate that they’re much ‘more than a player.’ Whether they’re on or off the track, the ladies in the BRRG practice sportsmanship and team bonds not often seen in other sports.  

On the track, pack members will throw themselves in front of other skaters to protect a jammer in trouble. And in roller derby, a sacrifice like this can have damaging consequences with the potential for signficant injuries a constant given. The off-track bonds were likewise evident through Saturday’s finals  as members of the Hard Knockers donned green gear to cheer on the Pin-Ups, and during halftime the players celebrated the upcoming nuptials of a teammate to one of the league’s refs.   

The BRRG also does an excellent job in supporting the local community. When it comes to community outreach, they work with and encourage The Cleveland Firestarters – the city’s first Junior Roller Derby for young women ages 7-17.  Although not officially affiliated with The Firestarters, the Burning River Roller Girls invited the young players out to the finals so that they could introduce the future of the sport to its current fans.  

In my opinion, though, the most impressive part about Cleveland’s roller derby league is the sincere gratitude the teams show for their fans. The league keeps tickets reasonably priced giving Clevelanders an affordable opportunity to experience quality sports.  Moreover, when they’re not on the track, the players are happy to speak with fans and always invite the audience out for drinks after each bout.  On top of all of this, none of the players are paid for their participation – so there are no bidding wars, free agency periods, or ESPN specials. These women are playing solely because they’re devoted to promoting the fastest growing women’s sport in the country.    

Although the season may be done, there are plenty of events to keep you occupied until the next season starts in the Spring. For those interested in possibly joining the BRRG, the Fresh Meat recruitment period starts August 1.  For everyone else, there’s the annual Black and Blue Fundraiser in November with Full-Contact Musical Chairs.   

At Saturday’s finals, the Burning River Roller Girls thanked the city of Cleveland for the support this past season. However, it’s really the city that should be showing appreciation for this league of dedicated women. Not only are the players talented athletes, they are also passionate, unselfish members of the community who provide a refreshing alternative to the nonsense we’re unfortunately accustomed to in more mainstream sports.   

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A Weekend Trifecta of CLE Arts, Eats and Roller Derby

… A look back at last weekend’s Parade the Circle, BRRG and Chef Jam 2010 …

The Sold-Out Chef Jam 2010 on Sunday night demonstrated the thriving partnership between Cleveland's restaurant and music communities.


One of my goals when I started this blog was to highlight a variety of the places and events that can be found in Cleveland.  And I hope that I’ve made some progress in doing so.  I truly believe that whatever your interests, Cleveland offers a number of great opportunities to meet those needs throughout the year.   
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to demonstrate this notion of a versatile Cleveland by seeing if I could fill one weekend with activities that would appeal to different tastes.  Last weekend I was able to find and attend 3 Cleveland events that would interest fans of arts & culture, sports, local food and music: University Circle’s Parade the Circle, the Burning River Roller Girls’ semifinals, and Chef Jam 2010. 



Colorful balloon arches introduced each section of Parade the Circle.


The floats and costumes found throughout the Parade were full of intricate and creative designs.


My weekend started early Saturday morning when I sleepily dragged myself out of bed to head over to Cleveland’s Eastside for Parade the Circle.   

In addition to floats, costumed stilt-walkers and musicians made their way down East Boulevard.


I knew that I’d need to gather my strength for a long day, so I first stopped by The Inn on Coventry for breakfast.  The Inn on Coventry, which will celebrate its 29th anniversary this July, is a mom-and-mom community restaurant with three generations of home-style cooks.  It’s been named one of the best breakfasts in Cleveland, and my first time there did not disappoint as they balanced a creative and delicious breakfast menu with the laidback atmosphere and value you’d find at a family-run restaurant.  I ordered a short-stack of their Crunchberry Pancakes and was very pleased with the result — two huge pancakes with granola and blueberry mixed in. Other pancakes on the menu include lemon ricotta, pumpkin and reese’s pancakes.  Not a fan of pancakes?  Their selection of egg specialities had me looking forward to my next visit so that I can try out their Swedish Eggs.   

Hawken School Community's Op and Pop and Things that Go Round! float.


I walked off  my hearty breakfast on my way down to Wade Oval for Parade the Circle.  Parade the Circle – often heralded as Cleveland’s signature summer event – is held yearly in University Circle’s Wade Oval by the Cleveland Museum of Art and University Circle, Inc.  At noon, a parade of floats, puppets, stilt-walkers, dancers, and musicians weaved its way down East Boulevard and Wade Oval Drive.  The creativity and intricacy found in the floats and costumes aptly demonstrated the dedication and talent of our local arts groups, community organizations and schools. Another highlight of the parade was how a number of the displays were themed around the environment — incorporating the idea of conservation not just in what the floats presented but also how they were constructed.  For instance, Sawson Alhaddad and Friends’ Phoenix-themed float was a giant phoenix bird constructed entirely of discarded medical supplies.    

After the parade, Circle Village was open in Wade Oval until 4pm for an afternoon of interactive displays, live music, and local food.   

Circle Village featured activities sponsored by local organizations.


Among other things, the 32+ activities promoted:    

  • the arts – the Famicos Foundation invited children to paint one of three canvas murals with an image from their neighborhood;
  • science – the Cleveland Museum of Natural History celebrated their 90th anniversary with hands-on science crafts;
  • healthier lifestyles – the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Center had families create a Dream Catcher and provided educational information and a nursing staff to answer questions about sleep habits

Parade the Circle has always proven to be a unique event that does an excellent job in promoting community involvement and an awareness of the arts in Cleveland – and this year was no different.     



The jammer for the Hellbombers (left) speeds towards the pack as the Hard Knockers look on from the bench.


After spending the day out in the heat, it was nice to head over to the airconditioned Wolstein Center for the Burning River Roller Girls‘ semifinals bout.  The BRRG are Cleveland’s first all-female, skater-owned, flat-track derby league.  Saturday night’s two matches pitted the Cleveland Steamers against the Rolling Pin-Ups and the Hellbombers against the Hard Knockers to determine who would be heading to the fourth season finals in July.   

The Cleveland Steamers and Rolling Pin-Ups line up as a jam is about to start.


First up were the Cleveland Steamers and the Rolling Pin-Ups.  Going into the match, the Cleveland Steamers were 2-1 for the season – their only defeat at the hands of the Hellbombers in Bout 1. And with the very first jam of Saturday’s match, they seemed to be on the road to another victory.  During the first jam, the Steamers immediately scored 10 points after the Rolling Pin-Ups’ jammer got penalized and was out of the jam.  However, the Pin-Ups – who were 1-2 for the season – staged an early comeback when they racked up 13 points in two jams, bringing the score to 18-15.  By the end of the first half, the score was 28-19 with the Rolling Pin-Ups in the lead.  During the second half, the Rolling Pin-Ups sealed their victory as the unstoppable Punk’d Pixie scored another 9 points on the half’s 1st jam and brought the score to 37-19.  With each jam, the Steamers continued to fall further behind.  Although they worked very hard and ended up with 35 points by the end of the match, the Steamers were no match for the Pin-Ups on Saturday as the score ended 57-35 with the Pin-Ups headed for the Hazard Cup in July.   

Aaron Bonk of thrilled the crowd between the 2 BRRG matches.


The second match pitted the undefeated Hellbombers against the Hard Knockers who were 0-3 for the season.  Although the Hard Knockers were the first to score – earning 4 points in the first jam, the Hellbombers’ brutal and nimble offense helped them take a decisive lead in the second jam.  Captain Erin Gargiulo from the Hellbombers scored an incredible 14 points in one jam.  The Hellbombers demonstrated that they were dedicated to victory as their jammers swiftly pushed through the pack jam after jam bringing the score to 17-59 by halftime in favor of the Hellbombers.  In the second half, the Hard Knockers tried to rally together in hopes of a victory.  And when the Hard Knockers earned lead jammer three jams in a row, it seemed as if they were making good progress. However, by the end of the match, the Hellbombers defeated the Hard Knockers 117 to 43.  Although it will be the undefeated Hellbombers in next month’s finals, the Hard Knockers deserve praise for their fortitude on Saturday night as they continued to battle hard despite the Hellbombers’ insurmountable lead.   

With these two exciting matches, as well as the thrilling juggling antics of Aaron Bonk of Hey Bonk! fame, the Burning River Roller Girls’ semifinals were an incredible way to end my Saturday.  And considering how close the Rolling Pin-Ups and Hellbombers’ last match was in May, both teams will have their work cut out for them as they prepare for the finals on July 10th.   


CHEF JAM 2010   

In addition to 26 local chefs, Chef Jam featured performances by The Rare Birds (pictured), Melange, Evil Eye, Cream of the Crop and guest Todd Rundgren.


The staff from Melange serving their George Thoroughgood-inspired ribs, wings and dill pickle popcorn.


After Saturday’s marathon of activities, I took it easy on Sunday until that evening’s sold-out Chef Jam.   Chef Jam 2010 was held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to benefit Cleveland Food Rocks and the Rock Hall‘s education programs and promote the city’s talented restaurant industry.      

Featuring 26 of the best chefs in the city, a selection of local bands, and a performance by Todd Rundgren, Chef Jam 2010 satisfied the epicurean in all who attended.   

Scott tries Melange's incredibly tender Watermelon 'Bad to the Bone' Ribs.


The Rock Hall buzzed with the sounds of the 1000 attendees who flocked from table to table sampling dishes themed around a different musician. Understanding how theatricality often goes hand-in-hand with great rock-and-roll, a number of the chefs and restaurants’ staffs also dressed the part for their particular theme.  In addition to the Happy Dog – who put together another hot dog masterpiece with their ‘Aint’ Nothing but a Hound’ dogs, my other favorites included Melange’s selection inspired by George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers and Bistro on Lincoln Park’s Allman Brothers dessert. Melange cooked up a tender Watermelon ‘Bad to the Bone’ Ribs, Effervescent Chicken Wings, and an incredible Dill Pickle Popcorn. And Bistro on Lincoln Park featured a grilled ‘Eat a Peach’ peaches with cracked black pepper ice cream.    

The crowd packed the lobby of the Rock Hall to see Cream of the Crop and Todd Lundgren play.


As with any good recipe, you need more than just one ingredient to make it a success.  And the live performances coupled with the setting of the Rock Hall were the perfect complement to the featured chefs.  In addition to complimentary tours of the Rock Hall and its exhibits, guests were treated to performances by local bands and the legendary Todd Rundgren.   Melange’s Melange and Happy Dog’s Evil Eye opened up the show.  After that, The Rare Birds performed for the Greenhouse Tavern closing their set out with one of my favorites, She’s Smokin Hot.  Cream of the Crop closed the night with a guest performance by Todd Rundgren. When Steve Schimoler – owner/chef of Crop and founder of Cleveland Food Rocks – was interviewed by The Plain Dealer, he noted how Rundgren performed for free in support of the Rock Hall and Cleveland’s food scene – both of which he’s a fan.  And with the quality of the dishes and performances featured at Chef Jam, it’s no wonder.   



Although it ended up being a couple of whirlwind days, Parade the Circle, the BRRG and Chef Jam were the perfect examples of not just the variety but also the quality of events that can be found in Cleveland any weekend.   


Parade the Circle 411:
Event page
Hosted by:
University Circle, Inc. and
Cleveland Museum of Art    


Burning River Roller Girls 411:  
Upcoming Bouts
BRRG Teams
‘What is Roller Derby?’ Video


Chef Jam 2010 411:
Event Page
Hosted by:
Cleveland Food Rocks and
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame   

Roller Derby Provides Bruisingly Good Time

Hellbombers vs. Hard Knockers match on April 3, 2010 - Jammers Eduskater and Check Republic face off. (all photos from


I know that my last couple of posts have been focused on some of the theatre and music that can be experienced in Cleveland. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a soft spot for the arts, and am finishing up my next post which takes a look at John Lithgow’s performance of ‘Stories by Heart’ for the Great Lakes Theater Festival.   

However, in addition to the arts, Cleveland also has ample opportunities for sports fans. Some may say Cleveland fans have it rough since our pro teams haven’t won a national championship in quite a while. I feel, though, that that’s an eternal battle a lot of sports fans go through (growing up an Eagles fan, it’s something I had to come to terms with a long time ago).  If you’re looking for an exciting alternative to pro sports in Cleveland, the Burning River Roller Girls offer up a bruisingly good time in the Spring and Summer.    

During the Steamers vs. Pin-Ups match, the Steamers' jammer gets taken down.


The BRRG is Cleveland’s first all-female, skater-owned, flat-track derby league. For those unfamiliar with the sport of roller derby, the Gem City Rollergirls created a 5-minute video that explains how the game is played.    

Cleveland’s league started in 2006 when 40 women met to start a derby group. In November of that year they had their first public appearance – Black and Blue Friday, which has become their annual charity event. Season 1 started in April of 2007 and by the end of the year, the Burning River Roller Girls were accepted as the 50th member league of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.   

Now in its fourth season, the BRRG has four home teams – The Cleveland Steamers, Hard Knockers, Hellbombers and The Rolling Pin-Ups – who compete with one another in five bouts from March to July. Additionally, the BRRG has two travel teams.  The first is the Burning River All-Stars – a WFTDA sanctioned, regionally ranked travel team for whom the best skaters from the BRRG league are selected quarterly. The other travel team – the Burning River Hazmat Team – is the league’s “B” travel team which was formed last season. In addition to the players, the league is rounded out by a support staff of referees, officials, two bout announcers, merch teams and other volunteers.   

The Hard Knockers lining up at the beginning of a jam - Mommy's Little Monster and Skank Williams Sr. up front.


The first match Scott and I attended was Bout 3 of the current season which was held on Saturday, May 8 at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center.  It was also their Law & Order Night with discounted tickets for police and military.   

The first game of the bout was between the Hellbombers and Rolling Pin-Ups. Leading up to this match, the Hellbombers had been undefeated, and the fight put up by the Rolling Pin-Ups very nearly ended this run.  With a score of 50-47, the Hellbombers barely pulled out a win.  Punk’d Pixie scored the first 25 points for the Pin-Ups in brutal jams time and time again. And when the Hellbombers’ Stroker Ace mistakenly put her jammer cap on inside out breaking a roller derby rule, she kept them from scoring 10 points. Nonetheless, the Hellbombers pulled out a win and preserved their undefeated record.     

Game 2 was between the Hard Knockers and Cleveland Steamers. In contrast to Game 1 which was a very close call, the second game demonstrated a clear winner very early on with the Steamers racking up 63 points versus the Hard Knockers’ 40.  The Steamers started off with a slight lead however the lead quickly blossomed to the point that the Hard Knockers were unable to stage a comeback.  When the Hard Knockers’ lead jammers kept committing penalties and being placed in the penalty box, the Steamers had multiple opportunities to rack up major points on individual jams and score a devastating win.     

The jammer from the Steamers trying to breakthrough a pack of Pin-Ups players.


After watching the teams dominate on the track, the fans could meet the players on the Wolstein’s concourse. For me, one of the best parts of the bout was meeting the teams and seeing that these are ‘regular,’ unassuming women who are confidant and determined to pursue their passion.  It was definitely an encouraging experience.    

On June 12, the BRRG plays its next bout – the season’s semifinals. And on July 10, they play the finals — both bouts at the Wolstein Center.  The next match for the Burning River All-Stars traveling team will be in nearby Pittsburgh to battle the Steel City Derby Demons. The local league’s semifinals and finals will be double-headers, with doors opening at 5pm and bouts starting at 6pm – plenty of time to grab a beer or some cotton candy beforehand.  And for those interested in actually getting on the track, there are plenty of opportunities for both women and men.   

Whether you’re interested in participating or watching, the Burning River Roller Girls are doing an excellent job of demonstrating why roller derby is the fastest growing women’s sport in America and definitely worth checking out.   


Burning River Roller Girls 411:   

Upcoming Bouts
BRRG Teams
‘What is Roller Derby?’ Video