Rome Celebrates 20 Years Where it All Began

You know the saying "you can't go home again"? It's bullshit.

words and photos: Mary T. Walsh

We all have a beginning to our snowboarding story—sometimes there are a few beginnings: our first turns, first big resort, first job, etc. In issue 19.1, I wrote about my personal beginning in the snowboard industry, a path that started squarely at 1 Derby Lane, Rome’s Vermont headquarters. As I wrote, I kept thinking about just how lucky I was that a burgeoning snowboard brand would welcome a snowboard-obsessed college student into their midst; the way I see it, I was getting way more out of it than they were. I was wholly inexperienced, constantly in awe of everything around me, and mostly devoid of any real applicable skill, other than an uncompromising desire to contribute in any way, no matter how small. My excitement to fill my brain with literally all the snowboard information that I could, no matter how nerdy, made up for my lack of real world business prowess—at least I think—and Josh, Paul, Sully, Dennis, Tim, Mike, Paddock, Cavan, and crew let me hang around.

When it comes to snowboarding brands and formative experiences—and Rome in particular, as well—I’m not alone in this experience. In the time since I sat as an intern in the tight-knit circle of the SDS—it’s been almost two decades if I’m dating myself—a whole flock of individuals have spent time within the walls of the Rome office (and as a part of its greater existence outside of those walls), similarly impacted by their time with. Rome has been the launchpad for careers, friendships, great ideas, less-great ideas, really suspect ideas that make for great stories, and explosions of both the literal and metaphorical kind. (And of course, much more.) The metaphorical blasts have touched many (and the actual detonation, no one was hurt by that, though it marked a new closeness with the fire marshal for the parties involved). Because of the environment created by the in-house crew at 1 Derby Lane, Rome has impacted a lot of people in boarding. So, on Saturday, November 5, 2022, a huge helping of those who have felt at home among the SDS gathered in Waterbury to celebrate Rome’s 20th birthday.

Rome knows how to put on a party. Anyone who has been to SIA back in the day, ISPO, ASR, The Rome Lodge, the FOR Party, video premieres, etc. is familiar that the crew knows how to have a good time. The 20th anniversary, helmed by Dan “Sully” Sullivan, Michael Paddock, and Matt Stillman, was one for the books. The doors to the office were open. A hand-hewn bar was built in the office’s showroom and Sully was making drinks. There was a spread catered by Waitsfield’s Dino Bones BBQ that included a cake adorned with a miniature Rome Agent. Live bluegrass filled the air. The horde spilled out into the dirt parking lot, a place that’s seen sales meetings, wiffle ball games, miniramp sessions, and massive bonfires. As the sun set on an unseasonably warm Vermont day, a stack of pallets a story-high was ignited. You could feel the heat of the flames practically all the way to the Prohibition Pig.

There’s something about a backyard party—or in this case, a parking lot party—on a warm New England night. A few of us gathered by Stillman’s Tacoma in a corner of the parking lot—that corner spot at a party where you’re cloaked in darkness and can hear what your friends are saying while getting a good view of all the action going on around you. John Cavan, George Eget, Anna O’Shea, Justin Cafiero, Grady Skelton, Ben Morse, Erin Walsh, Jackie Flanagan, Pat Bridges, Ben Olson of Damage Boardshop, and I batted the breeze. There were so many friends at the party that hadn’t seen each other in years; it was definitely a reunion. But it didn’t feel like time had passed; things just picked up where they left off. There was no small talk, no labored chit chat—it was a genuine, solid hang.

The details of the night are the stuff of “you had to be there” stories, but it was really, really awesome. (A quick rundown includes Sully holding court behind the bar, when cutting the cake, in the showroom, and wherever else he went; a lot of playing of that game with the nails and the stump; a short anniversary movie celebrating the past 20 years; the band; a lot of cake; really good stories told, especially by Cavan; Tiggs lobbing a full can of beer nearly into a rental car in the hotel parking lot; and a lobby hang that went late into the night.) Even though you may not have been in Waterbury that night, you can likely imagine the feeling. It took me a while to write this story. I labored over the sentences, trying to figure out how to describe the feeling of familiarity and belonging without sounding overly cliché in sentimentality. It’s hard to write about a place/time/people who have meant and continue to mean a lot in your life and not sound fully cheeseball. But most everyone reading this can probably relate to those moments of time in snowboarding that were magical because they felt fleeting. Those moments that left something with you that you carry to this day. Snowboarding gives us a lot of those moments. But there are some that endure. If you’re lucky enough to spend a moment in time with a group of people that seamlessly coalesces whenever you’re back together, no matter how long it’s been, well, then you’re lucky enough.

Thanks for the great weekend, everyone. <3


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