Creemore Skating Club marks 50th anniversary

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Creemore Skating Club is celebrating its 50th anniversary with this year’s carnival highlighting the best of the past five decades. 

Organizers are drawing inspiration from past programs and even hauling out some original costumes for the occasion. 

The club’s scrapbooks documenting each of the 50 years are full of smiling faces and many recognizable local family names. 

When the club formed in 1969, there were 50 skaters registered before the first lesson, and it continued to attract youngsters.

Verna Coker’s inaugural president’s message said, “In this our first year of operation we have over 70 young skaters taking part. We anticipate this number will increase every year and hope to make this an annual event. Although our first season was shortened somewhat by the late installatioan of the artificial ice plant our young skaters have gone through an extensive training period under the instruction of Miss Willene Stewart of Collingwood and I am sure their efforts will please you…

Thanks also go to the mothers who give so much assistance in making costumes, to the arena management, the advertisers who support our program and everyone who helps in any way to make our carnival a success.”

Hansel and Gretel was the theme of the inaugural carnival, performed at the old arena, where the medical centre in now. 

“Over 300 persons young and old jammed Creemore Arena Saturday evening to view the first annual skating carnival presented by Creemore Figure Skating Club, reads a newspaper article of the day. “Needless to say viewing space was at a premium. The arena was tastefully decorated for this occasion and co-chairmen Helen and Bob Walker and their willing helpers deserve a great deal of credit.”

In 1977 there wasn’t a carnival in Creemore because local skaters were dispersed to Stayner and Honeywood due to the closure of the Creemore arena, which was condemned. They were back on home ice in the new arena for the 1978 carnival, entitled Impossible Dream, on April 7 with almost 500 in attendance.

The club went on to have some high profile guest skaters at carnivals, including future world champions and Olympic medalists Brian Orser in 1980 and Elvis Stojko in 1989, and national champion and Olympian Jennifer Robinson in 1994.

The three Bigham sisters have all been part of the skating club family. Julie Bigham, club president, said skating runs in some families, for instance former skater Lori Modrits (nee MacDonald) has two young grandchildren who are now in the program.   

Coach Janice Bigham began skating with the club as a child in 1985. Even when she was away at university in Toronto she came home to skate on weekends and then continued on as coach. Skater Jan Hulme was a skater in the club’s early years and went on to be a long-time coach, and Anita Verstraten is also a long-time coach.

She said enrollment fluctuates over the years between 50 and 100 skaters. The club has 90 skaters this year, coming from Creemore, Glencairn and more than a third coming from New Lowell.

They say there have been a lot of changes over the years. Skate Canada revamps the program every 10 years or so. Now, they set up courses with the intention of keeping skaters moving at all times. It is a bit different from the old way of coaching, which resulted in cold fingers and toes. “They come off the ice tired and sweating,” said Janet.

There has also been the introduction of mandatory helmets for the little kids, as safety regulations have become more strict.

In addition to the youth program, the Creemore Skating Club has an adult skating program on Saturday mornings, and an adult synchronized skating team (they are trying to get a youth synchro team going for next year).

This year’s carnival is on Sunday, March 31, beginning at 2 p.m. It will feature all the club skaters and the ‘skating dads’, which was introduced in the late 1990s as a fun way to get the fathers to try some of the moves and has become a tradition, and a highlight for the audience.

Former skater Mariane McLeod is returning as emcee this year. 

To celebrate the anniversary, there will be a special reception after the carnival where the scrapbooks will be on display and cupcakes will be served. 

Admission costs $8 for adults; $5 for seniors; $2 for students; and children under five are admitted free.

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