Ice Skating in East Oakland—More Community-Building!

by Pat Patterson

' A bit of magic happened in late December that turned our neighborhood into a real winter wonderland. Children, teens, and adults were treated to an ice skating rink on Foothill near 55th Avenue. The scene was magical—a white tent decorated with Christmas trees, a garland, a white picket fence, rows of ice skates, wonderful music, and the smell of hot spiced cider. One by one, inquisitive visitors walked into the tent, checked out the scene, got skates, and zipped onto the rink.'

The transformation was amazing as sounds of laughter and delight turned an empty lot into a fun-filled venue to wrap up the holidays. Here's a bit of what I enjoyed: a set of five-year-old twins skated by, laughing and holding hands trying to stay up, and always waving as they passed. Their grandmother reminded them to skate in the same direction as the crowd. One twin insisted that she go the opposite way. City Councilmember Desley Brooks, organizer of the event, reminded them to go with the crowd. More squeals of laughter, and off they skated. Three teens looked serious as they sat on the bench fastening their skates. Next scene, there was laughter and shouting, as they made their way round and round the rink. There were the normal falls, but always laughter in the air.

Special guests the Ice Girls did some fancy maneuvers, and the crowd gave a warm round of applause. Hot cider, hot chocolate, and cookies came from a supporting coffee vendor. It was an instant winter wonderland, a three-day special holiday treat set up by Councilmember Brooks for the district and surrounding Oakland folks.

"It's important to have meaningful, positive activities in our own neighborhoods," said Brooks. "We need to continue to expose our children to positive activities, the way many of us were raised. Let's open their eyes to the simple, fun things in life that don't

cost much. Plus we get them outdoors where they are active. These type of things move them away from the TV, video games, and let them get exercise. It's a good thing!"

Several adults laughed and reminisced about their own skating days. One man mentioned that he'd brought his mentee to skate, to give him an outlet and some fun. The 12-year-old boy was having a ball. Each adult who recalled ice skating or roller skating at the rink in days past remembered enjoying "something to do" that was fun, challenging, and inspired them to get outside. They spoke of meeting friends and having a good time.'

I recalled my days as a youngster in Baltimore, Maryland, where we skated at the outdoor ice arena next door to Memorial Stadium. We couldn't wait to get there, and we'd skate till our legs were like rubber, then get hot french fries from a vendor and make our way home. Brooks told of a similar experience in Los Angeles, where she remembered ice skating with her family. "It was a good experience where you met your friends and had a good time."

'As I continued to take photos, I saw much more than excited faces, eager eyes, and colorful folks going round and round. I saw what happens when we take time to show our kids (and adults) we care about them. The return is that we continue to inspire, creating excitement and positive energy. That's what building community is all about.