WEIRTON - Eleven-year-old Lydia Bartlett didn't seem to notice the cold, steady rain falling Saturday afternoon as she skated around the portable rink set up at Marland Heights Park's Oktoberfest celebration.
"This is fun," she said, admitting she'd like to see year-round ice skating available close to home. "We could walk here and skate."
Bartlett and her sister Elizabeth, 10, and brother Jacob, 8, were among the first kids to test the ice in the portable rink, which the non-profit Marland Heights Community Association set up on the park's tennis court as a kind of trial balloon to gauge community interest in having year-round ice skating in Weirton.
RAIN? WHAT RAIN? — A steady rain didn’t keep youngsters from taking to the ice at Marland Heights Park’s Oktoberfest celebration Saturday. -- Linda Harris
Marty Coyne, president of Verona, Pa., based Future Skate, said the ice is really a hard polymer surface, so it can be used no matter what the weather or temperature outside. Saturday's skate was meant to gauge community interest and while there were some minor imperfections in the surface, he said that's to be expected with the temporary set-up they used.
"It's not a perfect surface because the subsurface isn't perfectly flat," Coyne said. "But we just had a man here who was a semi-pro hockey player, and he loved it."
Coyne said the price tag for a traditional ice rink can run as high as $1.8 million, with another $95,000- $125,000 every year in maintenance. He said the Future Skate system, on the other hand, is much more cost-effective and doesn't require the upkeep or a refrigeration system.
A beaming Sophia Hannaoui, 8, couldn't wait to get on the ice.
"This will be my third time skating," she said.
MHCA board member Kathy Kolanko said response had been positive.
"They're having a blast," she said. "I think it's something we'll definitely do again. Hopefully, we can get grant funding and do it permanently."
Ice skating, though, was just one of the activities going on Saturday. Festival-goers also were able to browse tables stacked with crafts, trinkets and baked goods, visit with the city police department's canine units and firefighter's, paint pumpkins and enjoy live entertainment courtesy of the Skip Peck Trio, Weirton Community Players Illusion IV, and the Brenda Casey Dance Studio. Weirton Rotarians provided adult beverages, and cigars also were available.
Kolanko said the community had been tremendously supportive, adding they'd received "a lot of donations for the bake sale, the entertainment was wonderful" and those who turned out were in high spirits, despite the weather.
"It's no problem, no problem," said Karen Pannett, adding that she'd sat through much worse when her husband, Dick, coached sports. "This park was a part of our lives: My husband was a supervisor, my daughter was a lifeguard, and my son worked on the grounds' crew for years, until the city took it over. We still live on Marland Heights and we still support this (park)."
Park Board member Deb Witkowski, on hand for the event, said it was "wonderful to see life in the park, with or without the pool operating" and gave MHCA high marks for its efforts.
"(They've) made such a difference in such a short time, and I have great hope for the future of the Marland Heights Park and pool," she said.