The 1970s and 80s may be a distant memory for many people, but one man in Napanee, Ont., is bringing some of that history back to life.
Jay Bradley, owner of Disco Ball Events, has turned one of the town’s former ice rinks into a roller rink, and says he’s seeing great success from the retro venture.
The skating rink’s website says that it is one of many rinks across North America taking part in a roller-skating revival, one powered by social media videos of people roller skating, and the urge to find safe activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He says his roller skating renaissance has drawn enthusiasts from as far away as Windsor.
“We’ve tapped into so many generations with this,” said Bradley.
Leanne Smith, who was using the rink this week, remembers roller skating from it’s hay day.
“When I came in the other day and I’m looking around, it brought back so much for me – it was so much fun to be here,” she said.
For some, like eight-year-old Scarlet Nickersons, the roller rink is a place to create new memories.
She says she tried roller skating just before the rink was closed down by the pandemic but kept skating at home until the rink opened again about a week ago.
“I like that you can do a whole bunch of things with your skates on,” Nickersons said.
Hailey McGill also tried roller skating for the first time just before the pandemic hit and went from novice to expert in short order.
“I went from holding on to one of our trainers to now I’m spinning, going backwards, doing shoot the ducks,” McGill said.
Her enthusiasm has led to work with Disco Ball Events.
“Once they start working for us it’s fantastic because they feel safe, they’re part of the team, and they start breaking out and we see their personality,” Bradley said.
He added that while he knows the roller rink is a business, to him – and he believes to others – it is more than that.
He says this venture has helped bring a sense of community to Napanee, and gives local youth a place to learn a new skill and have some fun, something sorely missing over the course of the pandemic.