When he and I were kids, our parents would take us (and our other 2 siblings) ice skating at the park on a swampy area that would freeze. It was pretty safe because it was probably less than a foot deep. We had to bring our shovels and clear off the snow before we could skate... and it was very bumpy, but we still always had a great time! Afterwards, we would drink hot cocoa in mugs (Santa mugs at Christmastime) with little mini marshmallows. My mom made us REAL cocoa - she heated milk on the stove, added syrup or cocoa powder and threw in mini marshmallows. It was YUMMY and warmed us all up after a hour or so of skating.
My nieces and nephews are now enjoying ice skating as well... but they don't have to be driven to the park. They just walk out their back door. The rink is huge and my brother makes improvements every year. This year, he added boards around the rink (complete with sponsor posters and a sign for "the rink at arrow lane") and a bench for watching, or taking a break. There is often a fire in the outdoor pit and lots of hot cocoa mugs sitting around. Quite frankly, it's magical. There are plenty of skates on the rack and lots of visitors come by to enjoy the rink. I think the neighbors enjoy watching everyone skate as well and last year, the local paper did a story on the rink. They even included a picture of my niece skating. She is quite good and LOVES the rink. Last winter she would get up early so she could skate before school!
It's been so warm lately that we haven't had much rink time. However, last week end the ice was frozen and the kids were ready to skate! My youngest niece (who is 2 and a half) got to try out her skates for the very first time. She was so PROUD of herself!!! She had lots of help from mom and dad, but she even managed to stand a bit all on her own.
Unfortunately, the temperature rose into the 40's that day and I'm sure the rink was a bit soggy by late afternoon. ...but not to worry, winter is making a come back today. It was only 2 degrees when I drove to work this morning so I'm guessing the rink is going to be in great shape this week end! I'm ready to put my camera down and strap on my skates for a while. If I can't ski, I'm perfectly happy to be on the ice.