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      New event takes students, competitors to new heights

      A brand new event is planned for this weekend in Marquette. The Downtown Showdown Rail Jam begins Saturday at 3 p.m.

      Snowboarders and skiers will ride rails down East Washington Street. The rails were constructed just for this competition by students from Negaunee, Marquette, and NMU.

      Negauneee High School senior Joe Dishaw said his metal and welding class have been working for two weeks. He said the toughest part of the process was the design.

      "Figuring out the angles, figuring out where the feet have to go," said Dishaw.

      Their two rails, each 45 feet long, are modeled after ones at Founder's Landing.

      "Some of the ideas to make some of the features came from some of the local riders," said Brandon Croney, one of the event organizers.

      Marquette Senior High School students are recreating two rails outside their school, and members of the NMU Construction Club are building a replica of the Lower Harbor Ore Dock. The materials for the rails were paid for by local businesses.

      Some of the snow from the sled dog races will remain on the street for the event. As soon as the last dogs leave downtown Friday night, volunteers will begin to install the rails.

      "Make sure everything is tip-top shape," Croney said.

      On Saturday, an open jam for all riders runs from 3 to 5 p.m., then skiers take the rails at 6 p.m. The snowboarders take over at 7 p.m., with finals planned under the lights for 8 p.m. The night wraps up with awards and prizes at 9 p.m.

      As the riders come down the rails on East Washington Street, there will be plenty of room for spectators. Croney expects to see 2,000-3,000 people in the crowd on Saturday.

      Lakeshore Boulevard from Main to Washington will be closed during the event to allow room for people to watch. There will be food and beverage vendors on site for the event that provided a great learning experience.

      "They get to apply the skills that they've been doing in class all this time," said Kevin Bell, the Negaunee metals teacher.

      "I just like the challenge of doing that kind of stuff," Dishaw added.

      Their work will be used again.

      "We will be storing them for use for next year," Croney said. "The goal is that this goes off well, and we will be able to use them in the future."