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A cool way to spend a Sunday night

Betty St.Onge of Tilton enjoys some time with her children, 4-year-old Zachary and 9-year-old Aubrey as they practice ice skating during the beginner skate time at Tilton School’s Chapel Arena. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
January 26, 2011
TILTON — Affordable fun is always at a premium, so when the Sanbornton Recreation Department, the Pines Community Center and Tilton School team up each winter to provide free skate time, Sunday nights become a weekly highlight for many local families.

Each Sunday evening the private school in Tilton has opened its Chapel Ice Arena for residents of Sanbornton, Northfield and Tilton in time blocks that give everyone from the novice to the most proficient skater an opportunity to enjoy the indoor skating facilities.

From 5:15 until 6 p.m. beginners rule the rink. Stacks of plastic milk crates are available to help them stay on their feet as moms and dads or guardians applaud their efforts.

The Edwardson family of Sanbornton brought 2-year-old Carl and 5-year-old Ella last week for only their second trip to the arena and already Ella was getting brave enough to leave her crates and skate along behind her father. Mom Anna Edwardson stayed with Carl as he shuffled along on his shiny new skates, smiling from ear to ear.

Four-year-old Zachary St. Onge and his sister Aubrey from Tilton were also taking lessons from their mom as she led them around the rink. Zachary took a few tumbles but came up smiling each time and soldiered on as Aubrey began to get the hang of skating on her own. Betty St. Onge said she was excited about the weekly opportunity to enjoy time with her children.

"This is fun. It's great for the kids and a nice family-oriented activity. Best of all, it's free. Times are tough so this is a great way to spend an evening out with the kids," she said.

At 6 p.m. the crates come off the ice as Family Skate begins for all levels of skaters, and at 7 p.m. the music ramps up a bit when teens and older kids take over the rink to finish up the night.

"We come every week. It's pretty fun but I wish we had more time. Still, we're really lucky we get to come here and skate at all so it's good," said high school junior Ben Jasons of Sanbornton.

With a parent or guardian available to join them for Family Skate they still manage to get two hours of ice time, he said.

Parents like Michelle Knapp of Northfield were having just as much fun as the kids, chatting with friends as they laced up their skates and circled the ice. Knapp said her children, now in middle school and high school, all learned to skate through the Sunday night program.

"We started my daughter skating here as soon as we could and have been coming ever since," she said.

Fellow Northfield resident Charles Beckley said he and his sons attend as often as they can.

"It's a nice program for the area. There are worse things kids could be out doing at night. Here they can come and have fun with their friends and the price is right," he said.

Another added benefit, Beckley noted, was the hot chocolate and snacks sold by the Pines, something not available when skating on a pond or lake.

Julie Lonergan of the Sanbornton Recreation Department and Brittni Stewart, recreation director at the Pines Community Center, said the program has been going on almost longer than they can remember but it has maintained its popularity over the years.

"I grew up coming here to skate so the program has been around for awhile; about 20 years or so. It's a lot of fun for families and it's really great of the Tilton School to make it all possible," said Stewart.

She and Lonergan have sign up sheets for families to log in. Last week nearly 180 people attended from the three area communities. Some people forget to sign in so actual numbers are even higher, they said.

The program began on Jan. 2 and will continue each Sunday through Feb. 13 this year. No registration is required and residents of Tilton, Northfield and Sanbornton are all invited to attend.

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