The day someone showed up pedaling a human-sized nudibranch puppet was the day April Hasson realized Secret Roller Disco (instagram.com/secretrollerdisco) had become way bigger than she and her co-founders ever intended.
Last summer, Hasson and a handful of her fellow retired roller derby friends began meeting up to skate in a downtown parking garage. Just over a year later, that casual weekly meetup has blossomed into a family-friendly rave on wheels. Now located on a blacktop outside Buckman Elementary, it hosts up to 200 people every Thursday night— including a rotating list of DJs, an ice cream truck, one person who regularly shows up to blow giant bubbles, and eccentrically dressed skaters of all-ages and abilities.
And last month, one participant came dressed like a cowboy and rode around on a bike cloaked in a neon blue and green nudibranch—a psychedelic-looking type of mollusk.
“That’s when we were like, ‘OK, we’ve turned into an unofficial Burning Man,’” says Hasson.
Though it’s not exactly “secret” anymore, Secret Roller Disco’s name still speaks to its DIY ethos. The loosely organized event only started an Instagram account after it had already caught on by word of mouth. Last winter, when its 7 to 9 pm meetup time left everyone skating in the dark, people brought a hodgepodge of Christmas lights and LEDs to illuminate the grounds. Many of Secret Roller Disco’s regulars—including its resident DJ Maaxa—found out about the event just because they were passersby who lived in the neighborhood.
“Once [attendance] goes beyond anything you said to anyone,” says Hasson, “you realize it was something people really wanted and needed.”