The ice is calling
The distinctive sound of skates slicing through the ice filled the air at several locations around the area earlier this week.
Many stir-crazy residents of all ages took advantage of the warmer weather to get outside and lace up their skates.
Skating looks easier than it is in the beginning stages. Balancing on two thin metal blades and walking onto a slippery surface takes persistence and practice. Once the skater learns the rhythm of their stride, bending the knees and leaning forward slightly, then they can glide gracefully across the ice and feel problems melting away. Sometimes they will fall a little less gracefully.
The new skating ribbon at Voyeugers Park on Dunlap Island was completed and flooded in December. A few residents braved the chilly temperatures and went skating before Christmas next to the festive new lights donated by Nathan Bentley.
The ribbon will be open until the ice melts, even though the Christmas lights are done for the year.
The warming house is open 4-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. The outdoor fire pit is also lit when the warming house is open. If you look closely, the fire burns in a star-shaped pattern, much to the delight of youngsters.
While the Christmas lights were on, Vicki Anderson brought her skates and an old Finnish sled to glide around the ribbon. Anderson said she likes to come around dusk to skate and enjoy the ambiance, usually by herself.
Others have tried out the new ribbon.
Derek Schrecengost and his new bride, Bekka, enjoy the ribbon together in their own ways. While she likes to take her time and leisure-skate the ribbon, her hubby, who has been playing hockey since he was small, prefers speed skating.
"I loved it! I headed there for the second day in a row to get my cardio in," Schrec said.
All Cloquet city skating rinks and warming houses are open from 4-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. They close if the windchill dips to 10 degrees below zero.
In Cloquet, hockey rinks are located at Sunnyside (Churchill School), Pinehurst Park and next to Pine Valley hockey arena. There are pleasure rinks at Sunnyside and Athletic Park.
The Scanlon rinks at Sather Park are popular for hockey and pleasure skating. Hours are 4-8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m weekends.
The sounds of laughing, friends talking and sticks slapping pucks were heard this week at area rinks that had been mostly empty due to cold weather during the holidays.
Preston Garza, 19, was scrimmaging at the Pinehurst Park rink with a few of his buddies. According to Garza, they went to Scanlon first, but it was packed.
"It's a nice warm day finally, after all of the negative-degree weather," Garza said. His friends, Ian Michaelson,19, and Cordell Johnson, 20, agreed. They said they get together whenever they can find free time.
"I just wanted to get outside and hang out with my friends," Johnson said.
Young skaters Natalie, 10, and Caylie Colemer, 7, have been skating several times near their home in Scanlon this season. They tried the ribbon for the first time this week and are excited to bring their father next time.
While the skating ribbon and warming house are complete, there are a few finishing details left on the rest of the project.
"Remaining work includes a final pavement lift on the parking lot, landscaping, signage, trail repairs south of the Chamber and final inspection of the playground," City Engineer Caleb Peterson said. "We also need to resume paving, curb, sidewalk and lighting work along Broadway Avenue, which was part of the same project."
Peterson estimates there is about four weeks of work left on the project. As always, finishing the project depends on Mother Nature's mood.
Other skating venues in Carlton County include:
• Carlton Four Seasons is hosting open skates inside the arena. The traditional pleasure rink behind the building will not be flooded this season due to problem weather patterns the last few years. Open skate inside will be available most Saturdays from 12:30-2:30 p.m. through Feb. 10 and some Sundays. Check website for schedule.
• Esko warming house is open from 5-8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m weekends and off-school days. It closes when the temperature drops to 10 degrees below zero.
Riverside Arena in Moose Lake provides indoor family skate from 6-7 p.m. each Sunday and open skate Sunday and Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. for $1.
It also has an outdoor hockey and pleasure rink at Riverside.
Riverside supporters are excited to have a new Zamboni recently purchased partially with a Mighty Ducks Foundation Grant.