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Frozen Fun Under the Lights: Residents Enjoy Night Skating in Sharon

  • Carol Harny and her son Ty Gagliardone, 12, of Sharon take a break from skating at the Sharon Elementary School Sunday, January 6, 2014. Gagliardone plays youth hockey in Hanover and Harny is taking Hockey 101 at Campion Rink to learn the sport. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Carol Harny and her son Ty Gagliardone, 12, of Sharon take a break from skating at the Sharon Elementary School Sunday, January 6, 2014. Gagliardone plays youth hockey in Hanover and Harny is taking Hockey 101 at Campion Rink to learn the sport.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sharon résidents celebrate the second annual opening of their town skating rink at the Sharon Elementary School Sunday, January 6, 2014.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Sharon résidents celebrate the second annual opening of their town skating rink at the Sharon Elementary School Sunday, January 6, 2014.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Neil Morrill of Sharon is among those that help maintain the Sharon ice rink. Morrill and his son Richard spent much of the opening party passing the hockey puck around rink Sunday, January 6, 2014.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Neil Morrill of Sharon is among those that help maintain the Sharon ice rink. Morrill and his son Richard spent much of the opening party passing the hockey puck around rink Sunday, January 6, 2014.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Carol Harny and her son Ty Gagliardone, 12, of Sharon take a break from skating at the Sharon Elementary School Sunday, January 6, 2014. Gagliardone plays youth hockey in Hanover and Harny is taking Hockey 101 at Campion Rink to learn the sport. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Sharon résidents celebrate the second annual opening of their town skating rink at the Sharon Elementary School Sunday, January 6, 2014.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Neil Morrill of Sharon is among those that help maintain the Sharon ice rink. Morrill and his son Richard spent much of the opening party passing the hockey puck around rink Sunday, January 6, 2014.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Sharon — As the sun went down and the lights came on, Willow Clifford skated around an outdoor ice rink, speeding around the edges, using a walker for support. For Willow, 6, the appeal of lacing up skates is simple.

“You get to go fast,” she said.

Several dozen people came out to Sunday evening’s official opening of Sharon’s ice rink, a community-operated rink behind Sharon Elementary School. It also marked the first time this year that the lights around the rink were on, allowing night skating.

It is, however, the second year that the rink has been open. In 2012, an older ice rink was replaced by a preschool building, rink committee member Steve Gagliardone said.

Soon after, there was support for the building of a new, larger rink, led by a group “trying to make the best out of a new situation,” said Dan Hudnut, another committee member.

Through private donations and money from Mascoma Savings Bank and the School Board, the rink committee raised $2,500, Gagliardone said. It then doubled its budget when it received a matching grant from the state.

Nearly all the money went into the rink’s construction, including lights and the building of wood liners, Gagliardone said.

“Now that I’m watching kids skate on it and the lights are up, it’s a beautiful thing,” he said.

On Sunday, some children glided around the rink, expertly carving ice beneath theirs skate blades. Others took spills while several passed hockey pucks back and forth. Novice skaters held firmly to walkers, or pairs of crates, to stay standing. And still others rode those crates around the ice.

Just off the rink, where skates blades had cut slits into the snow, Neil Morrill watched his son Richard pass a puck. Behind him, a cooler filled with spiced tea sat next to a pair of cookie tins.

“This turned out better,” Neil Morrill said of the rink, “because it’s bigger.”

It’s also better maintained, he said, perhaps because so much volunteer work went into building it. Hudnut said about a dozen people helped out with last year’s initial construction.

The community feel carried over into Sunday’s opening party. A rack of shovels and hockey sticks stood off to the side of the rink, available for free, public use.

A donation box was set up and a sign for a community hockey tournament on Jan. 25 sought participants.

“I think it’s something special we have in such a small town,” said Emma Clifford, Willow’s mother. The Clifford family, including Silas, 4, who alternated using the crates as “training wheels” and being pushed on those same crates, visited the rink last year more times than Emma Clifford could count.

Gagliardone said that there are no set hours for the rink. With the availability of the lights, people could skate whenever they’d like (though they’d have to ask him how to turn them on).

During the day, though, the rink is often the domain of the Sharon Elementary School students, who get to skate during recess.

Keenan Haley, who teaches third grade at the school, takes those with parental permission onto the ice.

Besides the required helmets, he has one main rule for his students before they get skating.

“You have to attempt to tie your own skates,” Haley joked, as there’s not enough time in the day for him to tie them all.

He said, however, that he appreciated the resource, especially considering its proximity to Sharon Elementary.

“We’ll have skaters in this school,” he said. “That’s cool to see.”

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.