Raindrops ceased just before 6:30 p.m. The show would go on for Twiggy.
About 50 people circled a knee-high, heated pool. Fingers unlocked phones and switched cameras to video mode. The anticipation mounted. Not every day does a water-skiing squirrel showcase its talents under a lifejacket.
That’s how the X Games officially kicked off Thursday night in the plaza in front of U.S. Bank Stadium. Rain and ominous clouds didn’t deter modest crowds enticed by games, prizes, and eventually the Skateboard and BMX Vert finals during a carnivallike “X Fest.”
Eric Scott, his wife M.J. and their four children arrived from Eagan to find themselves attending Twiggy’s water-skiing farewell tour. That’s right. After 39 years, owner Lou Ann Best and her trusty sidekick squirrels are calling it a career upon the X Games’ conclusion Sunday afternoon. Their final shows will be outside U.S. Bank Stadium through this weekend.
The Scotts took it as a consolation prize.
“We were hoping to see some skateboarding,” Eric said.
Skateboarder Jimmy Wilkins took gold in the vert competition around 10:30 p.m. Then Dennis McCoy, 51, became the oldest BMX rider to land a 900 in competition. Australian Vince Byron won his third gold in BMX vert just before midnight, well past the Scott children’s bedtimes.
Since the 5 p.m. skateboard qualifier was moved up to Wednesday because of weather concerns, Twiggy became their main attraction. The free games and T-shirt prizes helped make the trip worthwhile.
Rain forced fans unequipped with umbrellas or ponchos to find shelter under tented stands. Children competed to see how many giant plush cubes they could stuff into the rear of a Toyota hatchback. A version of a popular “The Price Is Right” game “Plinko,” was crafted out of BMX bike parts and called “Clinko.”
Some attractions couldn’t continue when rainfall became heavier.
Tyler Reyburn, 14, was the last kid allowed on the America Ninja Warrior-themed obstacle course. Reyburn had just leapt from the trapeze swing and onto a cargo net when the powers that be closed the game until they could dry the course.
“I didn’t do the greatest,” Tyler said afterward. “It was wet, so it was super slippery.”
Reyburn’s grandparents made the drive from Des Moines so Tyler could watch three days of X Games daredevils.
“We’re just hard core,” said Chuck Reyburn, Tyler’s grandfather.
Best questioned whether she and Twiggy would perform their final show of Thursday night. The electronics in her miniature speedboat couldn’t handle much rainfall. As fate would have it, the raindrops lightened as soon as the crowd built for Twiggy’s scheduled show.
There are only so many left. Twiggy’s first show was in Minneapolis in August 1979. Now a run that has spanned 39 years, eight squirrels and even more hours of entertainment is coming to an end. There’s interest in buying “Twiggy,” the brand, but Best won’t give up her 10-year-old squirrel.
“They won’t get her, she’s mine,” Best said. “So I’ll have to get a baby squirrel and train it for them or teach them to train it.”
Training a squirrel to water ski takes about a year, according to Best. We’ll see how long it takes the new Twiggy to become an actor. Across 39 years, Best’s squirrels have been featured in seven movies, one Brad Paisley music video and numerous television shows.
Twiggy only recently became an X Games fixture. This weekend marks their third run of shows outside the X Games, amusing throngs of families.
So the high-flying stuntmen have competition for biggest attraction, especially since Sunday marks the final ski show for Best and the (latest) original Twiggy.
“I’m retiring,” Best said. “I’m 63. I took my Social Security. She’s 10, so she’s taking her Social Security.”