Skaters take time to ‘skate’ in the New Year | Local

As the clock struck 1am on Saturday afternoon, a steady stream of skaters slid across the ice under the east pavilion of Headwaters Park.

For some, skating on New Years Day is an annual tradition.

That’s why Antwerp, Ohio, resident Paul Bauer and a family friend brought their sons on Saturday. Bauer said he has been skating on New Years Day since the rink opened 19 seasons ago. He also skates throughout the season.

“It’s fun watching them do the moves and seeing them fall and get up,” he said of the boys. “Every year they get better and better.”

The rest of Saturday afternoon, Bauer said, would be spent playing football. It was nice to spend the first part of the day with outdoor activities, he added.

“Our women take our girls out for manicures and pedicures while the guys do guy stuff,” he said. “After that, we’ll all meet up at Coney Island.”

For others, it was the first time they had put on a pair of skates. Joey, a Decatur resident, and his girlfriend, Sapphire, who declined to share their last name, were in Fort Wayne for a New Years party Friday night and stayed on Saturday morning to try something new.

“I try not to fall on my face,” Sapphire said with a laugh.

On their first outing, the pair said they enjoyed the experience, although they said their favorite aspect of skating at Headwaters Park was probably hot chocolate.

While New Years Day at the rink isn’t an annual tradition, Columbia City resident Becky Thompson has always loved ice skating. She, her husband and their three teenage children decided to skate on Saturday as a fun family outing to start the New Year.

“We used to live in Fort Wayne and go down, but it’s just been a long time,” she said.

Thompson added that she skated for years and even taught lessons for a while.

The 2021-22 winter skating season has been a success so far, despite lingering concerns about the pandemic, Geoff Paddock, director of the Headwaters Park Alliance said on Saturday.

Since the rink opened in late November, the park has hosted more than 16,000 skaters, he said.

“We are seeing phenomenal numbers,” he said. “We had record numbers on some days with over 900 skaters” during skating hours.

The park has experienced occasional staff shortages, Paddock said, adding that so far there have been no issues filling those gaps. He said rink staff have been diligent throughout the season to monitor security and adhere to COVID-19 protocols.

Bauer is grateful that Headwaters Park continued to open the rink despite the ongoing pandemic.

“These kids need something to do that is not at home during the lockdown,” he said. “I think it’s fantastic for the kids and for the families, and I hope they continue to do it.”

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