By ROB W. ANDERSON
The 2012 Snowflake Winter Festival began with great expectations as Tahlequah’s purchase of the ice skating rink offered patrons a bigger sheet of ice and longer session times to enjoy in the frozen holiday setting.
Some unseasonably warm weather and intermittent rain tried to put a damper on things, but overall, the Norris Park ice skating experience was deemed a success.
A local couple that called each other boyfriend and girlfriend while attending Grand View School got back together after several years apart and became husband and wife upon the Zamboni-groomed ice the evening of Jan. 1, the official last day the rink would be open. Tisha and Brandon Stallings started a new tradition for their family by ice skating and saying “I do” on New Year’s Day, as 25 members of their wedding party wore skates and bundled up to share in a climax for what most locals are now calling a Norris Park tradition.
“We wanted a fun family wedding event that included the kids,” said Mrs. Stallings, who is a graduate of Tahlequah High School and Northeastern State University. “We just wanted to make it special for the kids. I had only ice-skated once before in my life. The only person not on skates was the reverend, and he was fairly comfortable with walking on the ice.”
Stallings said she and her new husband got the idea about two weeks ahead of time. She praised the minutemen-like efforts of Tahlequah Parks and Recreation Supervisor Charles Poteete and Tahlequah Skatehouse owner-operator and Snowflake Winter Festival Ice Rink Supervisor Dusty Fore for helping make the moment possible.
“For being thrown together pretty quickly, it was great,” said Stallings.
“We had inside-out ‘smores cake and hot chocolate for cake and punch. We really had fun with this. Everyone was bundled up. It was absolutely freezing, but it was wonderful. We had a blast. Everything was beautiful with all the lights. We had flowers and the whole 9 yards. It was very romantic and very magical.”
The final numbers are still being determined by city employees returning to work after the holidays, but Mayor Jason Nichols said the city didn’t receive any negative feedback from those who enjoyed the Norris Park ice rink.
He said the city was “really disappointed with the weather” that created cancellations and impacted the revenue early on, but overall, the second year went pretty well.
Nichols said about $35,000 was produced through ticket sales.
“We’re going to be a little down from last year, even with the addition of the new week, and we attribute that to having to close so much due to the unseasonably warm weather and a couple of cases of rain,” said Nichols. “We really only have one year to base this off of.”
Fore said the ice resurfacer, or Zamboni, was a big step forward in helping keep the ice levels where they needed to be.
He said he thought the second go-round of the ice rink was informative and expects the festival to improve every year.
“I think everything went well. We had another good year. Of course, you learn things as you go from some of the processes, and we learned and improved on things this year,” Fore said. “After the last couple of days of 75-degree weather, it went great. We had to redo the ice and that was almost like starting over. There were two days there before the end when it rained, which isn’t an issue, but we had to cancel one session mainly because no one wants to skate in the rain. The ice was way better this year mainly because of the Zamboni. We had to do a lot of it by hand last year.”