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  • Wendy Wood-Prince

Excerpts from "A Mid-Winter Skate"

Courtesy of Classic Chicago magazine and written by Wendy Wood-Prince.

Dedicated park district staffers are the only signs of life in the early dawn of a chilly winter day, a low hum, the only sound, as ice smoothing machines are methodically pushed over the ice, smoothing the bumps and grooves from the skaters of the days and evenings before. The only witnesses are lone dog walkers out for early morning exercise. Quiet belies the noise and activity to come at the Lake Forest West Park skating “rink”. In this case, the term “rink” is used loosely. The West Park Skating rink is actually just a low area in one corner of the park that the city floods every winter to create an outdoor skating rink for all to enjoy. And enjoy they do!!

Spontaneous hockey scrimmages form with players ranging from the smallest mite to fully grown adults. Lots and lots of adolescent energy is expended as kids skate, display bravado and laugh the afternoon away. Hockey sticks clap the ice as pucks are flung towards goals brought from home. There is a sense of easy flirting in the air as pink cheeked glances and jostling encounters fill the air. As the sun begins its early winter setting, the sky turns romantic and moody. The rink lights turn on and the scene becomes reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting, real but not. Muted laughing, dogs romping, and skates scratching as the night sky blurs the edges of reality into a surreal dreamy evening.

As the dinner hour nears, stomachs begin to grumble and parents coax their reluctant children off the ice. With the sun fully set skaters slowly head home, energy spent and full of fresh air. Slowly the rink empties and quiet takes over again, leaving the park to late night dog walkers and dawdling teens soaking up the last sweet moments of a beautiful night at the park.


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