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Posts tagged: Riverfront Park

The first skater at the Ice Palace was…

…a retired nurse who lives on the South Hill. His name is Gary.

I could have claimed the honor for myself, as I have on more than a few opening days. But Gary was there a few minutes ahead of me. And besides, he seems like a good guy. So I waved him ahead.

We were the only two skaters as the 2014-15 Ice Palace season got underway this morning at 11.

The ice was about what you would expect at an open-air rink with temperatures as warm as they are right now. Which is to say, not good.

But the fact that the folks at Riverfront Park managed to create any kind of skating surface this month is pretty remarkable. Hats off to them.

At one point, as I was gliding near one of the corners, I heard cracking and looked down to observe fissure lines like you see when a auto-windshield star grows long spider legs before your eyes.

If I had been on a lake in winter, I would have been worried. But at the Ice Palace, my harrowing plunge would have been about an inch at most.

Walking back to the paper, I vocalized my Burgess Meredith “Penguin” impression for the benefit of some waterfowl in the river. And I thought about how Expo '74 was wrapping up exactly 40 years ago.

As I often do, I felt an urge to thank all those who made that park a part of downtown Spokane.    

Ice Palace season goes out with bang

March coming in like a lion was perfect in at least one regard.

Snow and cold made for a classic ice-skating backdrop as the Ice Palace at Riverfront Park wrapped up its season today.

The ice at the open-air rink is kept cold by artificial means. And some years, on the last weekend, it's all the chilling technology can do to keep the rink from turning into a shallow pond. But not this year. Today they could have shut off the power and the skating surface would have maintained integrity.

If you are one of those people who hate everything about winter, I feel sorry for you. Perhaps you should move.

Spring will be here soon enough. But today, Riverfront Park quietly celebrated the one season that overlaps the years.

A time-honored seasonal exchange

Skating season at the Ice Palace doesn't begin until Wednesday.

But I walked over to Riverfront Park yesterday and took a look at the gleaming ice.

When the guy driving the resurfacing machine rolled by where I was standing, I initiated the obligatory exchange.

“Looking good.”

“Gettin' there.”

Ever take someone’s picture here?

Or maybe you were the one in the photo.

Gravity and Ice vs. Princess Mania

Maybe it was just a regular skating class.

But it could have been a birthday party. A water bottle on the benches side of the boards at the Ice Palace had a special label announcing that Miriam turns 4 today.

There were several little girls trying to skate there at Riverfront Park late this morning. And, judging from their pink, sparkly attire, it seemed as if most of them were in the grip of princess mania. Even the bike helmets they wore had pincessy themes.

Which is why ice skating was the perfect activity.

Now one has to be careful when using phrases such as “knock some sense into them” when discussing young children. But until a proven vaccination is developed, ice skating seems like a great way to address the princess outbreak.

In ice skating, you have to bring your own magic.

And if you don't, well, “DOWN GOES FRAZIER!”

Falling on ice is extremely reality-based, even if you aren't falling very far.

It focuses the mind in a way that no toy unicorn can match.

The little girls did, in fact, experience a few spills. But they always got up. And it was no wand or tiara that got them back on their feet. It was their own fortitude.

Some of those little princesses might be delusional, but apparently they're also pretty tough.

Ice Palace opening postponed a week

Instead of opening on Friday, Oct. 19, the downtown skating rink is to begin its season on Friday, Oct. 26.

The ice is artificially chilled, but the Ice Palace is an open-air facility and the ice-makers need cooler weather to do their thing. 

Going to the lake

The Ice Palace seemed like a true outdoor rink today.

An outdoor rink near the end of the skating season, that is.

Even though Riverfront Park's open-air ice surface is artificially chilled, the warm wind makes it all but impossible to keep it from turning into a bit of a pond.

You could still skate though. And a couple dozen of us did just that.

The guy who drives the ice resurfacing machine told me he had sucked up a phenomenal amount of water before the public skating session. But he admitted he was fighting a losing battle.

One hoodie-clad boy who looked to be about 13 fell in the middle of a wet patch and soaked up what seemed like gallons of frigid water. When he got up, he looked like he wanted his mother to magically appear and provide him with dry clothes.

If all the other kids had done that it might have mopped up a fair amount of the standing water. But I suppose I would have gotten dirty looks if I had suggested that.

(Expletive deleted) Toddler Tuesday

Many years ago, one of my SR colleagues was on the phone with an events promoter who complained that it was difficult to book acts into what was then called The Met because it seemed as if there was always “some kids puppet show” using the downtown theater.

Only he didn't say it quite like that. The actual version included a common vulgar intensifier. I'm sure I don't have to spell it out for you. It went right between “some” and “kids.”

My colleague and I found the juxtaposition of rough language and the image of an innocent activity to be sort of funny.

Anyway, I went over to Riverfront Park this morning. I might have been a little early for public skating. In any event, I found a children's group at the Ice Palace and they didn't show any signs of wrapping it up. So I headed back to work.

As I got near City Hall, I encountered another Ice Palace regular. I reported what I had encountered. And she knowingly said “Toddler Tuesday.”

So on my way back to the Review Tower, I came up with a plan.

If anyone asked me if I skated, I would say “No, it was #*$%@*# Toddler Tuesday.”

As it happens, no one asked. Which might be just as well.

Sometimes people don't realize when I am attempting to be amusing.   

A pocket full of posies

Walked over to the park to skate.  But I did a 180 when I saw the crowd of kids on the ice. Must have been some organized group.

If they resurfaced the ice before public skating, well, who's got that kind of time?

No problem. I want the Ice Palace to succeed, so I'm always pleased to see the place doing some business. I can go back another day.

Besides, I got to hear a tiny little girl near the rink imploring her parents to play “Ring Around the Rosie.”

The mom asked her how the song goes. And the little girl gave it a shot.

Her lyrics were a bit hard to understand. But hearing her effort made me glad I had walked over to the park.

Panhandlers, the furry kind

Went over to Riverfront Park at lunchtime for a little Ground Hog Day ice time.

After skating, I was walking through the park and saw this guy who looked to be about 70. A plump squirrel stood before him and appeared to be inquiring about the availability of snacks.

“Does he know you?” I asked the guy.

“Never seen him before in my life,” he said.   

Ice age

The ice was a little soft at the Riverfront Park rink this morning.

It was perfectly fine for skating. They do a good job at the Ice Palace. Someone who hasn't skated much wouldn't even notice. And with the weather we're having, it certainly was to be expected.

There are two schools of thought about whether soft ice makes skating easier, if not as efficient physics-wise. But I suspect it didn't seem soft to the kids who fell. And fall, several of them did.

It's a wonder anyone ever learns to ice skate, the joys of going down hard on an unyielding surface being limited as they are.

For young children, though, the falling distance isn't all that great. So most of them keep getting back up. (A few crawl off and never look back.)

I wanted to tell this one little boy (a repeat faller) that he really had guts. But it was apparent that he was concentrating and I didn't want to distract him.

Birds of a different feather

Walking through Riverfront Park alone on a chilly morning seems like the perfect occasion for some poetic reverie about life, the seasons and prospects for the future.

But what I found myself thinking, not for the first time, was this.

Those ducks at the park sound to me just like Burgess Meredith as The Penguin in that old TV version of “Batman.”

It's a good bet that they aren't really trying to quack like one of the Caped Crusader's arch-enemies. But they still make me smile.

And who really knows when ducks are trying to be funny?  

Another ice age has arrived

So I walked over to Riverfront Park to purchase my 2011-12 Ice Palace pass. Opening day is tomorrow.

My picture on my pass this year looks as if it was taken during a disfiguring teleportation accident. But I'm looking forward to the season.

I don't think I can take a shot at being first on the ice tomorrow, as has been my off-and-on tradition. Got a lot to do Wednesday. But I will get over there soon and reacquaint myself with the fact that riding a bike doesn't totally prepare you for skating.

My former colleague Susan English introduced me to the Ice Palace more than 20 years ago. Her attitude was “Isn't it cool to have this right here in the midst of downtown?”

Yes. It is.


(Some of the other) Riverfront Park(s)

Salem, Oregon.

Mankato, Minnesota

Little Rock, Arkansas

Nashville, Tennessee

Laurel, Maryland

Williamsburg, Virginia

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

North Charleston, South Carolina

Another view

“We had friends visiting from the Chicago area last week,” wrote Jo Ann Cvengros. “They were here at Diamond Lake with us for most of the day but wanted to see some of Spokane before they left the area. I suggested Riverfront Park and the gondola ride. They were very impressed by the falls and really enjoyed it.

“The downside was that they were dismayed by all the litter that could be seen from the ride. I think they left with the impression that Spokane was a dirty city. This really hurt my civic pride.

“Having grown up in Spokane and always having been taught not to litter, I wonder what has happened.

“We are only in the area five months out of the year but Spokane is still a place I'm really proud of and love to show it off to friends who visit. I know times are hard but we can all work toward a clean city.”   

Slice answer

What did your visitors from out of town think of the downtown river falls?

“We had friends visiting from Idaho Falls two weeks ago,” wrote Mark and Darlene O'Bleness. “Thought it would be nice to go downtown to look at the falls. When walking through the very beautiful Riverfront Park we saw the gondola. What a great way to see the falls, we thought.

“Bad idea. When on the gondola it was like being in a sauna. We were all miserable and could not enjoy the view if we could see it. The glass is so scratched it is hard to see through. The only thing our friends could say when the ride/torture ended was, 'That was miserable.'

“Maybe someone high up in the Park Department should ride the gondola on a hot day and see what it is like.

“We did enjoy viewing the falls from the steps below the WWP building. It did not cost $7.25 a person.

“Our visitors still like our city, but the gondola is not the way to show it off.”  

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About this blog

Features writer Paul Turner is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review in the Features department. He writes "The Slice" column, which appears six times a week and produces general features stories for the Today section.

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