Ice rink created for Ice Festival

Published 11:57 am Thursday, January 6, 2005

By By ADAM FISHER / Niles Daily Star
NILES - How can you have an Ice Festival without ice skating?
JoAnn Flock of Niles' Main Street/Downtown Development Authority pondered this question.
With the city's Ice Festival coming Jan. 15 and 16, Flock though it would be nice to give patrons a chance to fully enjoy all that winter has to offer.
During the festival, 10 to 12 ice carvers from throughout the Midwest will be carving ice sculptures for audiences.
To add to the fun, Flock said wanted to create more activites.
For that, she wanted to create an ice skating rink in town that could be in use during the festival and after.
But she needed help.
Flock first enlisted the assistance of Tim Polega to help get the project organized. Polega, who owns and operates God's Green Earth in Niles, is Flock's son.
She also asked her friend Kathy Joyce, who home schools her children, if Joyce's kids and other home-schoolers could help.
Polega and Joyce eagerly agreed. Joyce belongs to a support group of families with home-schooled kids. She got a group of six students to assist with the project.
Flock then got the City of Niles Fire Department to lend a hand.
Making an ice-skating rink requires freezing a lot of water, so the Fire Department agreed to use one of its hoses to supply the water.
On Wednesday, Flock's planning came to fruition. A group of nearly 20 volunteers ages 11 to 64, teamed up to create the ice rink.
Home-schooled student Alyssa Klubeck, 15, and her brother, Chris, 19, a home-school graduate, built the frame for the rink. They built it near Riverfront Park on a plot of land just south of the Wonderland Cinema on Front Street.
The downtown development group got wood from Williams Lumber and Hardware to make the frame.
Next, the group laid down a layer of plastic to put the ice on.
That was the tricky part. With freezing temperatures, high winds and a snow storm in progress, volunteers struggled to keep the plastic from blowing away. But Polega nailed the plastic to the boards and the firefighters unleashed the hose.
When the water is frozen solid, Niles will have its very own ice skating rink for people to enjoy until rising temperatures turn it into a pool.
Though it is the only skating rink in town, it is not the first, Polega said.
Polega recalled skating on a make-shift rink at East Side Park when he was six years old. Back then, the city officials flooded the tennis courts to create the skating rink.
The frozen pond is something Flock said she would like to see become a permanent winter feature in Niles. Though, she said it couldn't have been done without the help of many Niles citizens.