At the Sunday afternoon public skate at Pegula Ice Arena, Hodge Barton gracefully skated along for most of the two-hour period, sometimes forward, sometimes backward and occasionally gliding along on one foot with the other leg extended behind him. He would stop to offer a helping hand to someone who fell or words of encouragement for beginners.
Skating is a routine and an old hobby for the 67-year-old State College resident. He started when he was 5 years old, first skating on frozen ponds around Philadelphia. Hockey served as an introduction, but Barton said he wanted to try more and attempt jumping and spinning on the ice. He learned figure skating, became quite good and dreamed of turning professional. He had to give up skating at the age of 12, when his father passed away.
He laced the skates back up after he retired as a teacher from the State College Area School District almost seven years ago and found the moves came back to him.
“At that point, it was like riding a bicycle for me,” Barton said.
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He now frequents the rink three times through the week and tries for a skate both days of the weekends, he said.
Public skating at the arena is offered a few times a week and skates are available for rent. The events draw an average of 300 to 400 people Sunday afternoons, depending on the weather and other events in the area, Pegula facilities supervisor Deb Campbell said. They attract experienced skaters, like Barton, beginners and all skill levels in between. Employees, called ice guards, are present on the ice to make sure everyone is skating in the right direction, help those who fall and maintain safety.
For some, Sunday marked their very first time on skates. Jordan Heineman, of Blanchard, came to the rink with Sean Frantz, of Hughesville in Lycoming County. Heineman had skated at the rink previously, but Frantz had never been skating. He said the first trip was fun and borrowed motions from another winter activity to aid him.
“It’s a lot like skiing,” he said. “I used that to help me.”
They would definitely be back for another go, Heineman said.
Others were present as spectators Sunday. Instructors conduct lessons during public skating and James and Jean Heck, of Philipsburg, watched their son Aaron, 15, take instruction. He skated around the rink without a hitch, a great improvement since he began skating. He has been skating for one year and has shown progress with his form, his father said. Aaron skated around the ice without a hitch.
He is set to begin playing in a hockey league in a few weeks, with games also held at Pegula, James said.
For others, the public skates offer an active, family outing. Scott and Janice Kellerman brought daughters Julianna, 7, and Breanne, 5, to the rink. The girls have taken figure skating lessons since August, have their own skates and have competed already, Janice said. She said she hopes it will be a lifelong hobby for her daughters, she said.
Both were on the ice before their parents even had their skates laced.
“They skate better than we do,” Scott Kellerman said.