Memories: Fun during WickerICE's successful premiere season


Grandfather and granddaughter...creating memories

Fun, happy, fun, cold, fun, not long enough, fun, friends, fun, family, fun, hockey, fun, memories….those are all comments about WickerICE, the new volunteer driven 60 by 120 foot ice rink in the middle of Wicker Park, 1425 N. Damen, that had a very short but worthwhile first season. 


Two sisters, in red, enjoy skating with their life-long friend whose mom skated with their mom when they were girls

"Fun" is definitely the operative word for the little idea that became a big reality. While there were different experiences, different waves of nostalgia, different skill levels and different involvement levels, everyone is so happy that it became a reality. 

"I thought this would be an opportunity to get a nice place to skate for my two young boy hockey players," said Michael Kupfer who is part of the WickerICE Committee of the Wicker Park Advisory Council. "What it turned out to be was much greater than that. 

"It was an opportunity to show what a small group of people with a plan and a commitment can accomplish, with a lot of hard work and community support. A much better lesson than just having a cool place to skate!" 

And indeed the opportunity blossomed into more than "just a place to skate!" 


Susie Senturia glides along completely enjoying her time on the ice

Time at the rink
From Texas, a Wicker Park resident, Susie Senturia, who is a retired banker, said that she loved skating as a kid. (That would be in an indoor rink in Houston!)

"I would love to learn to skate backwards, but I am bigger and taller than I was then and the distance to the ground is greater." So she is focusing on skating forwards with nice long strides and learning to play a banjo off the ice! 


Sana Long wants to keep skating

Regarding WickerICE, she skated as often as possible, and is grateful for those that made the rink happen. 


Wearing his snowshoes, Hani Long waits with his mom for his sister

Vern Long's 7-year-old daughter Sana was out on the ice, not wanting to leave despite the freezing temperature. Her 3-year-old brother Hani was avoiding the slippery experience with his snowshoes outside the rink. Mom Vern explained that they all loved being out in the Park in the winter. 

"We would be here all the time except for the weather," said Grace Lanzetta. Right after returning from school at Near North Montesorri School, she and her 5 and 6-year-old daughters head for the rink. 

Another local skating family included two approximately 10-year-old girls who are repeating history. Their moms skated together when they were about the same age! Now it is their turn.

The dad, of one of the girls and another daughter, "Mr. Hossa" in the red jersey was having at least as much fun as his two daughters and the family friend. "We were here yesterday but it got so cold that we decided to return the next day, today." 

A three generational experience on the ice included grandparents from Iowa City and their family from a little further north in the City. Grandma was the official photographer. She said they had been to Wicker Park before. "It is a really nice little park." 

When it comes to favorite sights, "mine was the fire department using the hoses to fill the rink with water," said Kupfer. "That was second only to seeing my oldest actually ASK to get up early on a Sunday to go play. (Never happens!)" 


Grace Lanzetta with one of her daughters

The season
Though there were probably less than half of the hoped for 30 skating days this year, the Chicago Park District outdoor ice rinks are closing on Feb. 28. So while it is unlikely that there will be anymore WickerICE skating days this season, there will be more to come in the next skating season. 

"The things I most worried about were older players and younger skaters sharing ice," said Kupfer. "In particular, I was concerned when we had 'Sticks and Pucks,' but there was never an issue that I was made aware of or observed. Everyone really wanted the rink to be for everyone! 

"I think the group will come up with several improvements from our experience this year, but frankly overall the year went very well (except for some uncooperative weather)," he said.  

Regarding organizing and implementing, Kupfer went on to say that while "there were many volunteers working to make this happen without Doug Wood there is no way this project would have happened. He was the absolute catalyst for getting over every major hurdle that we encountered!" 


"Mr. Hossa" (Rick) skates behind his daughter

With the rink close to being disassembled, it is time to look to the future. That will start by evaluating the past. 

March will be the time for reports from each of the eight WickerICE committees (resurfacing, fundraising, hat sales, promotions, social media, ad sales, website and volunteer management.) They will provide facts for planning for the next season. 

It will also be the time when the rink maker and storer, Iron Sleek, will set then execute removal dates. 

As with the creation, the rink will require a series of steps to get everything put away for the off-season as plans are determined for what has to be done between now and the beginning of next season. 

To know about future activities check the Wicker Park Advisory website and WickerICE Facebook page. Then, review your skating equipment for next year. The next season will be here before you know it!


This skater was perfecting some of his skills on the ice



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