Merced County Times Newspaper
The Power of Positive Press

Atwater welcomes back ice skating for the holidays

Times Photos by Ian Whitaker


The Old Town Skating Rink is back up and running in downtown Atwater.

Plopped onto an empty parking lot on Cedar Avenue and Fourth Street, it’s the second year the rink has been in operation. Last year the rink was a big hit, said Brad Kessler, member of the Old Town Atwater community group which organizes the venue.

“It went really well last year and we made a promise to everybody that if it went well, we’ll do it again,” Kessler said. “And here we are.”

The rink is slightly bigger this year. Only about 55 people could skate at the same time last winter, but now that number is up to 85.

“We tried to set this up very old fashioned and welcoming,” he said. “That’s the kind of feeling that we wanted when you came in here.”

“One of our main focuses was to do something positive for the community and help downtown as well,” he said. “Try and bring some awareness to downtown as it slowly gets bigger and better. Things take time, but something like this can help.”

The rink is open to the public after 3 p.m., but mornings at the rink are usually filled with kids’ laughter as local schools are able to visit free of charge. On Friday afternoon, three 6th grade classes from Shaffer Elementary all piled into a school bus and went for a glide on the ice. Some glided better than others. Rookie skaters brave enough to go without one of the rinks handy PVC pipe training supports had a habit of getting up close and personal with the ice, but they dusted off the snow and were all smiles when they came up.

Kessler said the rink shows that downtown Atwater is back on the upswing. The pandemic hit the community pretty hard, he said, as businesses were shut and people were afraid to go out of their houses.

“I think life’s back to normal and we’re trying to continue to offer what we did last year,” he said. “We need to get back to a sense of normalcy. But at the same time, people need to know that here at Oldtown Atwater we’re trying to do good things and we’re trying to provide some form of positive activities that we can do.”

The rink is funded entirely by donations, Kessler said, and the added traffic helps out local businesses.

“Some of the stores down here really saw a tremendous uptake in sales. Obviously this brought a lot of people from other towns. From our social media we were able to see that people from the Sacramento area came down here quite a bit.”

The skating rink is open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the week and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends. Ticket cost is $15 per person and includes skates, and discounts are available for military and first responders.

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