Skaters strike while the ice is cold for community skating party

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Voluntown - posted Mon., Jan. 13, 2014
Caitlyn, 8, of Voluntown, waits as her mother, Rachael Claspell, laces her ice skates. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Caitlyn, 8, of Voluntown, waits as her mother, Rachael Claspell, laces her ice skates. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

The frigid temperatures brought by the so-called "polar vortex" held steady just long enough for the town’s annual community ice skating party and bonfire Jan. 10. Even though temperatures were slowly climbing above the freezing point by Friday night and the ice had a thin layer of water on the surface, plenty of skating enthusiasts showed up for a few laps around the rink and a sip of hot cocoa by the fire. The morning’s dusting of snow was still in evidence.

Joyce Cassidy said she didn’t expect to see such a sizeable crowd. “I said, ‘There won’t be anyone down there, but we’ll take a ride down and see,’” she said. “Those are the die-hards. If they fall down, they’re gonna get soaked.”

“It’s not slushy. It’s plenty cold enough,” insisted Alex, 11, of Voluntown, as he stopped to adjust his skates. “With the rain on top of it, it makes it a little more slippy.”

Cassidy’s granddaughter, Maddie, 13, was among the most confident skaters making her rounds on the rink in a bright pink jacket. She said she’s been skating since she was 7 or 8 years old. Maddie’s dad, Peter Cassidy, serves on the Rec. Commission; her mom, Kelly Cassidy, said that the commission opted to try to squeeze in the event, which was sorely missed last year, despite the iffy weather.

“We wanted to have it because it’s going to pour tomorrow,” she said. “Last year we put [the rink] up but we never got enough coldness” to really take advantage of it, she said.

Jessica Papineau, of Griswold, stood on the sidelines with her 6-month-old son, Samuel, watching her other two children, Sophia, 3, and William, 6, slide around on the ice in their snow boots. Papineau said that William had outgrown the skates he had at age 3, but the kids were having fun anyway. “This is so nice to do,” she said. She brightened when a bystander told her that the Recreation Commission had skates available to borrow.

Joyce Cassidy said the Recreation Commission was disappointed that there had been incidents of damage to the community rink. Just after it was erected in December and before the ice froze solid, someone picked up chunks of ice from the edges and piled it up in the center. “It’s a shame, since [the commission] worked so hard [setting it up],” she said. “I’m sure it’s not the people that are using it.”

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