Dan Mahony remembers a time when he first came to Tillsonburg and summer rollerskating was a big thing.
“I was just flabbergasted at how popular rollerskating was. And I hadn’t done it, even though I skated and played hockey all those years.
“It was big! Three times a week, I think it was Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. It drew crowds each one of those nights.”
There would be 75 to 100 skaters at Memorial Arena, he said, sometimes more than 100.
“It (rollerskating) seemed to die out, as far as popularity, I would say in the 70s. They tried it again a few times but it never really caught on the way it was.”
Posting some of those memories to a local Facebook group, and remembering the songs, generated instant and enthusiastic response.
Mahony, an active inline skater, got an idea from some of those comments. Could it be done again?
“I’ve done a lot of rollerblading on my own, just around town, so I’m quite interested in it. Some people said, ‘I’d never be able to … but I’d love to come and just listen to the music.’ There just seemed to be this need, a social sort of need to get together.”
So Mahony took the next step and contacted Town of Tillsonburg staff. He learned the indoor and outdoor pads would not available this summer, but he came up with an alternative idea.
“That parking lot next to the outdoor rec pad is huge, it’s new, and it’s smooth. It’s a little bit sloped, but it’s very skateable – and it’s a big surface.”
Chris Baird, Director of Recreation, Culture and Parks, suggested two Skate Nights, open to any seniors/adults in the community, and if it was popular it could become a regular activity.
“If there’s good response, maybe we can continue into the fall – outside,” said Mahony.
So Wednesday, Aug. 4 and Wednesday, Aug. 11 were selected for the two trial runs, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. both nights.
The parking lot will be cordoned off for skaters, and the Town will allow them access to power for the music.
“One thing we are going to have is music,” said Mahony, noting use of a sound system has been donated both nights, and Dan Hooyer, ‘a patroller back in the day,’ will be the MC.
“The music end will be looked after and it will be a big part of the night,” said Mahony. “I’ve got the old stuff from about ’58 to ’64 and that was really the hey-day of rock ‘n roll. I’m sure that it will be appreciated.
“We’ve had a lot of people say they’d come out to listen to the music, but we haven’t had tons who said I’ll actually put on skates. So we won’t know until we have the first one.”
Spectators are asked to wear face covering and stay socially distanced (six feet apart) unless with their own families.
Skaters do not need face coverings while skating, but do need them when stopped and socializing.
There will be no equipment rentals, but Mahony does have a few extra pairs of inline skates that he lends out.
“I know at least one guy, Bob Alexander’s brother from London, is coming down because he’s an avid skater up there. He’s an old ‘2×2’ guy so we’ll see how he makes out.”
“As for equipment, there’s a lot of equipment out there in people’s garages. And they are available (in stores), there has sort of been a resurgence of traditional rollerskating. But I say don’t go out and buy brand new stuff until you try it.”
Mahony strongly recommends anyone coming out for the two Skate Nights wear protective equipment. That would include helmet, elbow pads, wrist protectors (very important for anyone who falls), and knee protectors.
“I don’t go out the driveway without all of that on. So knees and elbows, hand guards, and helmet of course.”