By Clay Schuldt
As far back as the 1920s the City of Caledonia has established an ice skating rink. The location has changed over the years; the rink was once located near the current elementary school. Annual dance benefits were held to raise funds for the skating rink. In the early 1940s the Caledonia Commercial Club would sponsor skating races. Eventually the rink was relocated to Veteran’s Memorial Ball Field where it has remained for the last several decades.
The original warming house was a metal shed with an old stove, but today if you ask most citizens what they remember best about the rink they’ll probably mention Archie Longueville.
Longueville served as the skating rinks manager for several years. Not only would Longueville flood the skating rink every year, he would manage the warming house and sharpen blades for skaters.
Nowadays the management of the rink falls on the shoulders of elementary physical education teacher Jan Meisch and Caledonia zoning administrative coordinator Mike Gerardy. Meisch became involved with the ice skating rink during the 1995-96 winter season. Meisch said the school had started a program called “February Fitness” to encourage students to be active in the winter months.
“The idea was to promote broom ball games at the ice skating rink,” Meisch said. “After the fitness program ended I just kind of stayed with the skating rink.”
Over the years Meisch has continued to help organize volunteers to manage the warming house. “No one wants to give up a Saturday to watch the warming house, but maybe every other Saturday.”
Meisch admitted, however, that with the number of warm winters in recent years there is no guarantee that all the volunteers were needed. The inconsistent nature of Minnesota’s winter makes it difficult to plan too far ahead. Last year the temperature never stayed below freezing long enough to flood the skating rink.
City hall has received its share of calls concerning the rink. Gerardy has taken over the task of flooding the rink, and acknowledged the difficulty in maintaining the ice. “It’s all dependent on Mother Nature,” Gerardy said.
This year the city has made an attempt to flood the rink, but the continuing warm temperatures have halted any progress.
While an indoor rink is easier to regulate, an outdoor rink is at the mercy of the sun. Setting up the rink every year is not as simple as turning on a hose and waiting for water to freeze. “It takes several days to properly flood the rink,” Gerardy explained. “You need to create layers; otherwise, you get a honeycomb effect and the ice easily breaks.”
In addition, the water in the rink is held in place by a barrier of snow. Without an adequate amount of snow to surround the rink, the water will drain away.
Even though the Caledonia skating rink is currently not adequately frozen over, Gerardy gave his assurance that if the weather cooperated the city would attempt to re-flood the rink.
For Caledonia residents itching for a chance to break in their skates, La Crescent has an indoor rink with free skating on Saturdays.