Thursday, May 23, 2024

Roller Skating Every Wednesday at the Leavenworth Festhalle

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LEAVENWORTH - On Wednesday nights from January to April, the Leavenworth Festhalle comes alive with a burst of swirling activity; it’s the weekly skate night. Outside it might be cold, dark and damp, but inside there’s the warm yellow light, happy pop music playing, and a few dozen people skating in circles. 

While quite a few kids zip around, their parents watching from a perimeter of folding chairs, there’s also skating wizards, some former derby, some talented teens, gliding sleekly forward, then backward, and even with a spread eagle, where the two feet are facing in opposite directions. Little cones dot the center line for those wanting to practice weaving skills. It’s a welcoming atmosphere.

This is the second year of weekly skate nights. Each season begins after New Year’s and the cleanup of holiday decorations. Season’s end happens when May’s warm weather makes indoor sport less necessary.

Local Event Co. (www.thelocaleventco.com), an event planning, rental and venue booking service, coordinates events at the Festhalle and hosts the skate nights. Owner Ashley Coffin explained how it began with the sense that the Festhalle was underutilized. 

“There are not a ton of options of things to do this time of year,” she said, “We started a kids play session on Tuesday mornings. Then someone asked if they could rent the Festhalle for skating.” Rather than requiring a rental, Coffin decided to offer a weekly skate night since the logistics would be easiest under their organization.

A small $5 entry fee helps cover the cost of cleaning. Coffin and her colleagues donate their time. Hosting involves checking folks in, getting liability waivers signed, coming up with themes for each week’s costume contest, and awarding winners each week thanks to gift card prizes donated by the Fudge Hut.

“Last year there were a few slow weeks, but this year, we’ve had consistently high attendance,” Coffin said. Attendance on a Wednesday night averages between 40 and 50, though it’s less at any one time because families with young children usually come early and leave early, while adults trickle in later. There are a few passionate skaters who stay the whole two and a half hours.

Music is essential to elevate the roller skating experience. Coffin has brought in DJs, but mostly the music is selections from a Spotify playlist. To add variety, Coffin lets attendees sign up to be DJ for a night, using their own playlist. 

The fun is spreading mostly by word of mouth, and the weekly themes are posted on the Leavenworth Festhalle Facebook page as well. Having one’s own skates (or roller blades) is a limiting factor. However, a number of skaters either dusted off old skates or purchased skates (used high quality skates on eBay is a good option) because of the enticement of the weekly frolics to break up the dreariness of late winter and early spring.

“You’re never too old to skate,” said Lori Sanders, who started skating this year when she saw it mentioned on Facebook. She hadn’t skated in thirty years. “It brings back good memories for me. There are people of all ages skating together. It’s a good vibe.”

Alice Farrell, 17, prioritizes Festhalle skating nights, even with a busy schedule of Running Start and afternoon track practices. “I meet up with my friends there. Sometimes we dress up. We practice tricks like table tops, the train, and the coffin.

“Going to the Festhalle is something to look forward to,” Farrell went on. “There really isn’t any other good indoor surface to skate on in Leavenworth.”

Local dad, Chris Auty, started bringing his five-year-old daughter, Penelope, to the Wednesday skate nights to help her learn to skate. He held her hand and walked around with her the first week. “She’s independent now and doesn’t need me,” he said. “She wants to hang out with her friends.” Penelope’s interest in skating has grown so that she talks about it all week in anticipation.

Danielle Gibbs comes to the Festhalle nights for herself and also to do something fun with her kids, Napiqua, 17, and Phoebe, 11. “I’m getting braver,” Gibbs said. “You gain a different sense of balance, like when you’re backward skating.” She is a fan of learning new things; she’s also taking Western swing dancing lessons at the Senior Center in Wenatchee. Gibbs has an ambition to eventually be able to pull off some roller skating dance moves.

She loves it because, as she said, “It’s a great option for all ages in the winter. And it’s not super crowded.” 

Auty echoed the sentiment, saying, “It’s a wonderful use of space.” 

Farrell mentioned the importance of camaraderie. “Skating at the Festhalle means being part of a roller skating community; skaters are nice, outgoing and willing to help each other with improving skills.”

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