Ramona Roller Rink celebrates 96 years, raises $5,000+ for rebuild

Published 3:45 pm Monday, July 8, 2024

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KEELER TOWNSHIP — Since the tragic structure fire at the historic Ramona Roller Rink in May, the greater Dowagiac community has stepped up to help the business as it plans to rise from the ashes.

The rink and mini-golf course, located at 93127 County Road 690, hosted a 96th Birthday celebration and fundraiser Saturday to raise money for a rebuild. The event, which raised more than $5,000 for the rink, featured a silent auction with items donated by local businesses and community members, arts and crafts, baked goods and more. 

Event organizer Christina Castaneda hopes the birthday celebration will become an annual event.

“The community really showed up and showed out today,” Castaneda said. “The vendors were happy and everybody won today. I love it when everybody wins.”

“It went very well,” added owner Harold Schaus. “Everybody seems to be doing well, we had the DJ come in and now it’s been pretty busy all day.”

The former big band dance hall and longtime roller rink has operated under the same name since its opening, despite being passed down through four different owners. Ramona was the oldest operating business in Sister Lakes, according to owner Schaus. 

For Schaus, the roller rink is a family affair. He started working there at the age of 14 in 1976 and would often take his siblings with him to work. In 2004, Schaus achieved his dream of purchasing the roller rink and has worked there with friends and family ever since.

In the days since the fire, Schaus, Castaneda and the entire Ramona staff have been able to learn just how much the roller rink meant to the community. Several community members and businesses have donated time and funds to fundraising projects. 

Campbell Ford of Niles will have its mobile service team at the rink site from 8 to 4 p.m. Friday, July 19 for oil and filter changes, diesel and full synthetic excluded. The event, which costs $45 for an oil and filter change, is prepay only. If 50 tickets are sold, Campbell Ford will donate $1,000 toward the rink rebuild. Tickets can be purchased at the roller rink from from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, 11a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

“It’s been very moving,” she said. “People are donating money and wanting to see it go toward a new cause. It’s been a nice breath of fresh air to see so many positive people when it comes to this. It’s been great and all of the people, even the out of towners, have been very supportive.”

According to Schaus, plans to rebuild the rink are moving forward. The staff has worked to clear rubble and preserve as much of the original rink floor as possible. While some of the floor sustained damage, Schaus said two trees behind the rink – one being a sugar maple tree – were cut down to be used to repair the floor. The original rink floor happens to be made out of sugar maple wood.

“What a coincidence,” Schaus said.

In order to move forward with the rebuild, the rink is pursuing a variance from Keeler Township, with a survey of the site taking place later this month.

“(The township board members) want it back,” Schaus said. “Once we get that done, you’ll probably start seeing some progress.”