Around 40 years ago, roller skating was arguably one of the most popular recreational pastimes, combining physical activity, a chance to socialize, dressing up in special outfits and listening to music.
The activity made a comeback in a big way in Sandy Lake, a small farming community located 96 kilometres north of Brandon. On Aug. 5, as part of Sandy Lake Western Days, the community’s old roller rink was filled with people taking part in the activity, from those with traditional roller skates to people with in-line skates and even children on scooters.
Dennis Yanchycki, a Sandy Lake resident who decided to refurbish the roller rink for the event, said he thinks it shut down in 1982. When he and others in the community heard the rural municipality had purchased the lot that the old roller rink was on, he suggested turning it into a multi-purpose facility, complete with basketball and pickleball courts and shuffleboard.
“Then I made the suggestion to bring back roller skating and try it out at Western Days, and everyone rallied around it.”
Yanchycki and other volunteers spent their free time patching the concrete at the old roller rink, which he said had held up “amazingly well” considering its age.
“It had cracks in it from frost and water expansion over the years, and there was even some grass growing between [the cracks],” he said. “We cleaned that all up, patched it and put a chain link fence around the two ends.”
By the time Western Days came around, Yanchycki said the rink was ready for its unofficial grand reopening, complete with free ice cream and retro songs that people had requested on the Sandy Lake Western Days Facebook page.
“We polled for people to come up with songs they remembered when skating there years ago when it was still open, and came up with a playlist from those songs. It was great. It was just like stepping back in time.”
According to Yanchycki, community response to the refurbished rink has been very good.
“There was even a family from Moose Jaw who happened to be staying at Clear Lake. They heard about this … [and] they brought their roller skates, the mother and daughter even had old retro outfits … and they were just so excited about skating there.”
Karla Rasmussen, who grew up in Swan Lake, 141 kilometres southeast of Brandon, and the mother that Yanchycki mentioned, said she spent many summers in Clear Lake and the surrounding area in her youth.
“Roller skating was one of the activities I absolutely loved,” Rasmussen said. “It’s something my children both enjoy doing.”
Rasmussen said she and her family were vacationing in Clear Lake when they heard about Sandy Lake Western Days via its Facebook page.
“We were really excited that the roller skating night lined up with one of our vacations.”
Rasmussen added the event was “fantastic,” and the sense of community was very apparent.
“Everyone was so welcoming and encouraged us to take part.”
Rasmussen said that as the evening wore on, people of all ages could be seen having fun at the roller rink.
“It was just wonderful to see different generations come together and get interested in the sport of roller skating.”
Rasmussen said she’s excited to come back to Sandy Lake in the future, with her trusty roller skates in tow.
“We will definitely plan to attend again.”
The next roller skating event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 3, as part of Sandy Lake’s Halloween celebrations. The community celebrates Halloween early, Yanchycki said, because many cabin owners are gone for the season by Oct. 31. Yanchycki said he hopes to see many people of all ages, and wearing all sorts of costumes, come out to the event.
Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun