Brainerd Ice Rinks Provide Winter Fun For Generations – Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — The Brainerd Lake District can be a winter wonderland, and its ancient inhabitants probably knew it better than anyone.

Several outdoor skating rinks have been established in the region offering relatively affordable and accessible entertainment to young and old, men or women, rich or poor.

“Extensive preparations are underway for the establishment of a skating rink in the valley between the city and the North Pacific (railway) stores…and citizens young and old are preparing to enjoy it,” according to the January 19, 1878, edition of the Brainerd Tribune.

The ice rink at what is now Gregory Park in North Brainerd recently hosted its annual Valentine’s Day Skating Party, a testament to the enduring popularity of the winter pastime. This rink opened on North Seventh Street in 1890.

Evan Aitchison competes in the pink relay race during the annual Valentine’s Day Skating Party on Sunday February 13, 2022 at Gregory Park in Brainerd.

Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Regarding the rink that the Brainerd Tribune wrote about in 1878 and 1879: “The rink was again overflowed last night and is now in very good shape – flippant as a bottle. … The rink continues to offer a rare sport for ladies and gentlemen.

The cost was $5 for family memberships, $2.50 for single memberships, $1 for single monthly tickets, and 25 cents for single admission tickets, which were available at a nearby pharmacy.

“It’s wonderful to see how quickly new beginners gain confidence and the ability to keep their balance on the glassy surface. Many are already good skaters, and all the patrons of the rink are making rapid progress in this enjoyable art,” according to the Brainerd Tribune in 1880.

More than 40 people at a time on the ice rink at the north end of Seventh Street was not uncommon, according to the news publication, and it was a family destination.

Warmly dressed children hold hands and skate on a sunny winter day.jpg
Warmly dressed children hold hands and ice skate on a sunny winter day in Brainerd.

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“The best feature of it all is that the children – all of them in fact – are perfectly safe here, no treacherous air holes to catch the unwary and bring heartbreak to any home,” according to the edition of the January 17, 1880 from the Brainerd Tribune. .

According to the 1888 Brainerd Dispatch, skating parties on Gilbert and Rice lakes were all the rage.

Some enterprising people by the name of F.A. Farrar and W.A.M. Johnstone endeavored to give the residents of the Brainerd Lakes region even more enjoyment on ice but sheltered from the elements by opening an indoor skating rink in 1893 at the corner of Sixth Streets and Kingwood,

“The ground was thoroughly soaked in linseed oil, after which about 3 inches of sawdust was covered and frozen by degrees to prevent water from seeping in and running off when the flooding came. took place,” according to the Brainerd Dispatch.

Admission was 15 cents for men and 10 cents for women and children. Admission and use of skates was 25 cents.

“The idea of ​​indoor ice-skating is new to this city, and it promises to be as fashionable this winter as roller-skating was in its finest days”, according to the edition of December 8, 1893 .of the Brainerd dispatch.

Another skating rink was built in 1894 by Fred Paine and NP White on a vacant block on Main Street between Seventh and Eighth streets, according to the news publication, and there was a YMCA skating pond on the corner southwest of Main and Broadway in 1914.

Calls for a public skating rink in northeast Brainerd were answered in 1917 when a location was chosen just west of Lowell School, between Second and Third Avenues and Ash and Elm Streets, covering almost a city block.

Another rink was built by a clothing factory in 1949 and it was located on the south side of Norwood Street between 11th and 12th Streets Southeast.

It was a cool place to go.

-Carl Faust

“I skated there for many hours as a kid, even though I lived across the street from Gregory Park,” said Carl Faust, a local historian. “It was a cool place to go. … I had to go too.

While numerous public and private skating rinks have existed over the years in the Brainerd Lakes region – and some are still standing – the popularity of the winter sport and hobby lives on.

“It is Brainerd’s fun and ‘life’ this winter, and we hope it may continue through all the winters to come”, according to the January 17, 1880 edition of the Brainerd Tribune.

FRANK LEE can be reached at 218-855-5863 or

[email protected]

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