Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

For the love of ice skating in Minnesota February 1, 2021

This mural of “Ice Skating on the Straight River” graces the side of 10,000 Drops in downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

WAY BACK IN THE DAY, in the exuberant days of my youth, when I truly enjoyed winter, I loved to ice skate. I wore my Aunt Dorothy’s white figure skates, passed along to me. I was happy to have them.

And I was happy to find a patch of ice upon which to skate in my hometown of Vesta. Near the grain elevator. Nothing fancy. Just an open space flooded in the winter for skating.

Now my hometown is looking to offer youth more than simply a patch of ice. Local resident Jacob Kolander has started a gofundme page to raise $6,000 for a Community Outdoor Hockey Skating Rink. His goal is to erect boards and an entry gate around a rink to provide a safe place for kids to skate. So far, he’s raised $950. If you’re interested in contributing to the cause, click here.

Up in Warroad, in the northwest section of Minnesota right next to Canada, locals have created a 2.5-mile Riverbend Skate Path which has grabbed lots of media attention. It started with two families wanting to connect their ice rinks. Yes, hockey/skating is big in this part of Minnesota. Well, that initial connection expanded to include five more rinks linked via the Warroad River. And now locals are clearing and grooming the ice and looking to buy a Zamboni. Various fundraisers, like concession stands along the skating path, are aiming to generate the needed funds.

Much farther to the south in the small town of Pierz, the local library also embraces skating via lending out ice skates for a week at a time. Varied sizes, from kids to adult, are available for check out. I love this idea—just in case there are kids without an Aunt Dorothy.

TELL ME: Have you ice skated? Let’s hear your skating experiences.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “For the love of ice skating in Minnesota”

  1. Doreen Says:

    Read about the “skate path”……awesome idea!!! I spent hours and hours at a park near my home skating. Evenings, afternoons..whenever there was free moments…….and all outdoors!!! No INdoor rinks for use back then!!

  2. Ken Wedding Says:

    It’s not exactly skating, but a neighbor here in Northfield has a “Little Free Sled Library” in a front yard, and yesterday I saw a couple kids with colorful sleds headed for the hills on the St. Olaf campus.

    • Ken, thank you for sharing about the Little Free Sled Library in your neighborhood. What a great idea. If you’re willing, can you reply to this comment with the address of that library. I won’t publish your reply. I’d like to photograph this the next time I’m in Northfield.

  3. Your post brings back some memories. I was lucky to receive figure skates as a gift and actually wore them to play hockey too. I also did a good amount of roller skating growing up too. Our neighbors had a pond and the boys were really nice to let the girls play hockey as well as open the pond periodically during a game to figure skate. Some of the kids did not have skates and just tried to slide with their boots on. It was all in good fun and we were really good about sharing sleds too. Happy Day – Stay Warm – Enjoy 🙂

    • Thank you for sharing your childhood ice skating experiences. It’s heartening to read of the kindness of those boys. I was one of those kids who skated in her boots.

      Oh, and roller skating. I did a lot of that as a teen and young adult. So much fun.

  4. I share in you memories of skating. I can remember my mom taking my sister and I to a roller rink, and ice skating on a local frozen pond in the winter. Yes, so much fun!

  5. As kids we would walk 1/2 to the frozen Kettle River with the neighbor kids and skate. They had skates we had our shoes to slide on the ice. When we moved to The Netherlands my hubby was shocked that I didn’t actually skate (MN being a hockey area). I have made a fool of myself several times over the years when I have placed skates on my feet and mostly skated on my butt across the ice.😳

    • Thanks for sharing your skating story, Paula. Families like yours and mine didn’t have the money to buy skates for us kids. So, yeah, even though we live in the land of hockey, not all of us had the same opportunities.

      I wish I could still skate. But I won’t risk falling and getting another broken bone. Not at my age.

  6. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    Been skating since I could walk, before boot skates, just the two bladers. I was 5 in 1948. In Germany everyone skated on whatever froze, or so it sounded. Dad led the way, Mom wasn’t much on it. Dad and crew flooded a rink back of St. Mary’s, overlooking the town from the bluff, lit it for night skating for the students. A big pine was lit, seen west for miles. By the time Dad died, we moved to near Shumway, I was part of the East Side gang, most went to Washington School, one of the city rinks with a warming house! There were rinks all over town. Everyone of my era, in all neighborhoods, fondly remembers. Me, the daughters, all the 4H groups, skated in the cities. We even went to Aldrich Arena for open skate. I still have mine in the garage. My neighbor uses hers for a front door decoration. We prefer not to break a hip. Those were great days. When I didn’t have to think about grabbing a railing going down my 15 stairs. We roller skated too. Walther League had many parties.

    • Thanks for sharing your many skating memories. What fun. Faribault has a rink by Jefferson School and a relatively new one near the Viaduct. And then Shattuck, of course, has its indoor rinks as does the city. Not the same, though. I can’t stand the smell of indoor rinks.

      I’m with you on not skating any more due to possibly (ok, likely) falling and breaking a bone.

  7. Missy’s Crafty Mess Says:

    Oh boy that brings up memories! I remember ice skating on the lake while my dad fished. I fell into a pile of slush that came out of a fishing hole. It’s probably why I refuse to ice fish to this day. So cold!

  8. Sparrow Says:

    I miss ice skating. Unfortunately I have one knee that won’t behave itself, so I don’t attempt it anymore. Roller skating was an awful lot of fun back in the day as well!

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