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Lights, Curtain...Skate: Club Shows Provide Skaters with a Lifetime of Memories
by Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz, special to U.S. Figure Skating

It's a favorite and popular figure skating club tradition, the annual ice show.

From Broadway to revisiting fairy tales and movies, shows leave skaters with memories that last a lifetime.

Kitty DeLio-LaForte's mother Peggy began "Showtime on Ice" in 1973, a show that is jointly produced by the Colorado Skating Club and Denver Figure Skating Club. This year the club embarked on their 43rd production of "Fairy Tales on Ice," featuring musical highlights from Shrek, Tangled, Frozen, among others. The 2015 Four Continents champion Polina Edmunds, and 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron were guest skaters.

DeLio-LaForte and her two sisters Heidi Thibert and Becky DeLio-Trampler grew up skating "Showtime on Ice" which at the time was directed by Carlo and Christa Fassi.

"If you ask participants in 'Showtime on Ice' they will tell you every year they participated brings them special memories," DeLio-LaForte said. "I remember some silly things, like peeking through the curtains to see the guest skaters. We were not supposed to do that but we just couldn't help ourselves."

Heidi DeLio Thibert would later serve as artistic director for the Edora Pool and Ice Center's annual "Winter Wishes" in Fort Collins, Colorado. She remembers skating in the "Showtime" shows with her sister, Kitty.

"In those annual productions, my sister and I got to skate alongside Olympic, World and U.S. champions such as Scott Hamilton, Dorothy Hamill, Robin Cousins, Peggy Fleming, Paul Wylie, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner and countless other famous skaters," Thibert said. "'Winter Wishes' was created to provide opportunity for skaters to discover the joy of performing on ice just as I did as a young girl."

Clubs often begin planning their shows a year in advance.

"Shortly after the show is over the process begins for planning the next year's production," Thibert said.

At the Center Ice Skating Club in North Canton, Ohio, a coach and parent chair submit the show's theme for board approval. This past year, the club honored their parents with skaters performing a program with moms during the holiday show. During the spring show "Ever After," a program with dads was featured.

"All of our shows have been fun in their own way," said Center Ice Skating Club vice president Jennifer Woodruff. "We have had several productions which give the girls the ability to feature and highlight special talents, and our seniors. We also have a winter exhibition each year that is a show of duos, trios and solos based on the skaters' choice. There is usually a music theme but it really is fun for the skaters to be so involved in their own numbers."

And there is always that one special show that skaters and coaches remember for many years.

For Thibert, it was the 2004 "Winter Wishes" produced with the Fort Collins Symphony Orchestra and featuring local guest skater Lea Nightwalker who was touring with Disney on Ice at the time.

The skaters enjoyed performing with the 80 piece orchestra. Production included music from "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," "The Firebird," "Peter and the Wolf" and "The Nutcracker."

The orchestra was both on the ice with the skaters and also on a platform about four feet off the ice. Heaters were brought in to place under the platform to keep temperature constant for the instruments. The temperature in the building were also raised for the same reason.

Janice Drake, President of the Crystal Ice Figure Skating Club, found this year's show "Broadway Blades" very special. It celebrated the 30th anniversary of their show's director, Lynda Schrader.

"This year's show was very special to us because this is Lynda's 30th year being show director for the City of Stevens Point, Wisconsin," Drake said. "Our community is very fortunate to have such a caring and dedicated coach, director of our Learn to Skate Program and show director."

For many clubs, presenting a show with "meaning" is top priority.

Heather Seyfer is the Ice show director at the Duluth Figure Skating Club and is in charge of choosing the show's theme each year.

"I always take recommendations but mostly look at my life to inspire me," Seyfer said. "It has many times been a song on the radio that is a bridge to all the other ideas. This year, I was looking to send a positive message to our skating community and the spectators."

Seyfer chose the theme "Life is Good."

Skaters look forward to their show's theme each year, but in the end it is the experience of skating and performing for family and friends.

Debbie Colgan, artistic director for the Rochester Figure Skating Club in Rochester, Minnesota, fondly remembers their 75th reunion show in 2013. The club highlighted past show themes, and published a reunion book going back to their initial application to U.S Figure Skating in the late 1930s. They also held a reunion on the same weekend and welcomed back former club members to a cocktail party after the first show and a luncheon the next day.

"We created an identifying red scarf with the reunion logo on it that returning members bought and wore," Colgan said. "In our grand finale all the skaters in the show wore the same scarf connecting the current skaters with the past. It still gives me goose bumps when I think of it."

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