Growing up in a small town – or village – there are a few certainties.
You have two grocery stores, two or three restaurants, and there’s a summer and winter carnival. In Arborg, Manitoba, there’s an annual summer fair. And we used to have a winter carnival.
The Arborg Winter Carnival was a three-day, family-friendly event, held during the coldest or most spring-like weekend in February or March. There was a corporate challenge, pitting four or five teams against each other in various competitions such as curling, sponge hockey, wood chopping, “big ball” soccer, snow sculptures, and smoosh races.
Arborg would sometimes manage to snag a CKY-TV personality. One year cameras scanned an event and captured my school-skating friends and I chanting “Let’s go, Legion, let’s go.” When we realized the camera was on us, we were so excited! We were disappointed when it didn’t air that night, but still, it was a cool moment.
On the Sunday, the Arborg Winter Carnival wrapped with the Arborg Skating Club’s ice show. Complete with the crowning of the carnival queen and king. Eventually, the king was phased out, and same with the queen.
Looking back on those ice shows, the rink was packed to capacity. People lined the arena walls and filled the stands. During the finale, there would be a balloon drop, and the skaters would be showered with balloons. Kids, who weren’t part of the skating club, would jump over the boards – because we didn’t have plexi-glass until the late-80s – and they’d stomp on the balloons. Of course, the skaters did too. We had better success with our toe picks.
The final balloon drop was 1986. Our arena was the last of the northern Interlake region to have artificial ice, just in time for the 1986/1987 season. Balloons aren’t artificial ice friendly. Even with artificial ice, parents, family, and friends froze in the stands for an hour and a half, cheering on the skaters., blinding them with flash cameras. Capturing their child as a lollipop, baker, Irish girl, strawberry, gingerbread person, or lion. A priceless moment.
In 1989, a cool tradition started at the Arborg SC. Skater would hear, “our next skater won a gold medal in the Interlake Interpretive Competition,” or “a bronze medal in elementary ladies at Regionals” before their program. It was motivation and achievement.
After the ice show, we’d wait. And wait.
Our local paper, the Interlake Spectator, would cover the highlights of the winter carnival and the ice show. In a small town, it was a thrill to be in the paper. It was local, but hey, local, provincial, or national, it doesn’t matter. You’re in the paper.
On March 14, 2014, Arborg Skating Club will be holding their ice show on March 14. The theme is Just Dance, featuring the next generation of “our next skater won a gold medal at STARSkate provincials,” and “a silver medallist at STARSkate provincials” and “placed 10th in level 1 at the Manitoba Winter Games.”
The Arborg Skating Club secured Bree Langlais from the Selkirk Figure Skating Club their guest skater, who placed fifth at the Skate Manitoba Sectionals in Senior Women this season.
STARSkaters will perform free programs and group number to music that’ll get your toes tapping and fingers snapping. Skaters who are sure to entertain are Sarah Jensen, Natasha English, Eva Jensen, Olivia Orbanski, Kayla Weik, and Jenica Sul. These skaters are planning programs to Madonna’s Vogue, Pink Panther, Black Swan, Micheal Jackson’s Thriller, Tango, and New York, New York.
CanSkate, STARSkate, and Rising STAR skaters will perform numbers to the Jitterbug, a Conga Line, Hula, YMCA, 1960s Go Go Dance, Footloose, and more.
The ice show starts at 7 p.m., and arrive early for a prime seat. And don’t leave too soon. The final number is the Macarena. Relive the 1990s and have your arms ready!
Photos: Personal archives