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Cahill Ice Rink Brings Community Together

After two years without a Whitefish Bay ice rink, local kids are flocking to Cahill Park to ice skate and play hockey with their friends.

If the sight of 20 kids playing hockey in the park isn't the scene of a Norman Rockwell painting, it should have been.

That sight is now commonplace in Cahill Park, where on Thursday night, kids ages six through 13 slapped the puck around, while others enjoyed a more leisurely skate on the 100-by-200-foot ice rink. When the cold becomes too much to bear, families can take a break in the heated Cahill Pavilion.

Organized by Deb Dryden and Lori Rojas, more than a dozen volunteers have spent the last week flooding the park area just south of the warming house to create an ice rink for others in the neighborhood. The volunteers worked more than 10 hours to make the ice rink: three two-hour shifts on Monday, one two-hour shift on Tuesday and another two-hour shift on Wednesday. 

A Bay tradition restored

The ice rinks at Cahill and Klode parks have been a Whitefish Bay tradition for decades. But while the village continued to flood the Klode rink throughout the years, the Cahill rink disappeared sometime in the 1990s.

When Brenda Szumski, who now serves on the Village Board, told the Dryden and Rojas families that Cahill used to have its own rink that she would skate on as a young girl, the Dryden and Rojas families decided the restore the Cahill rink in 2008.

With a narrow approval from Whitefish Bay trustees that year, the DPW once again started flooding the Cahill rink.

In December 2010, on the third year of the Cahill ice rink, the villagers volunteered to take over flooding duties because they were eager to start skating by Christmas. The DPW trained residents how to flood the rink. Brenda's husband Mark already had experience with the process, because he flooded ice rinks at Lake Bluff School during his high school and college years.

The job usually takes three people (and a lot of warm winter clothing). One person sprays a large fire hose upward and side to side, while another two people stand behind and move the hose. The hosing lasts about 10 minutes, and then they wait up to 30 minutes for it to freeze. Ice is formed one layer at a time to create the rink – and the more layers, the better.

Because Wisconsin winters are so inconsistent, Szumski said three weeks is an optimistic lifespan for an ice rink. Last year, the weather was so inconsistent that neither Cahill nor Klode received an ice rink.

A community gathering place

Once it's created, the park quickly turns into a gathering spot in the neighborhood. On Friday night, for example, the families are having an ice skating party and plan to order pizza for everyone who chips in a couple bucks.

Hugo Rojas, who has been actively involved in flooding the park the last couple years, said it's nice to see the kids playing with each other in an unstructured environment.

"These kids' activities are soccer, baseball, football...all these things are in the context of a league with parents, lines and referees. There's very little that they do that is unstructured and organic," he said. "This is kind of a throwback to how kids used to be. They can play with each other, make up their own rules and just have fun."

While standing on the side of the ice and watching his 13-year-old son race around and laugh with other kids, Rojas said the hard work by volunteers and the family-friendly fun that resulted from it is one of the reasons he's happy to call Whitefish Bay home.

"This is the sort of thing that brings a community together," he said. "It sounds cliche, but this type of thing is what makes Whitefish Bay such a great place to live: Kids and families coming together and building something on their own for no other reason than because it's good for the community."

(This article was updated at 9:05 a.m. Jan. 25)

someski, some don't January 25, 2013 at 02:05 PM
Quick correction...Brenda Szumski did grow up in Whitefish Bay and remembers skating at Cahill as a youth, but credit goes to Dryden and Rojas for coming up with the idea of and bringing skating back to the neighborhood.
Hugo Rojas January 25, 2013 at 02:52 PM
Nice article, Jeff. Thanks. This rink exists because people in this community decided that they wanted to have one. In 2008, over 40 neighbors and their kids showed up at Village Hall and convinced the Trustees to approve the rink. In 2009, it took another showing of community support to make the rink approval permanent. In 2010, when the former village manager decided that flooding Cahill was not enough of a priority, the community took it upon itself to do it, THAT YEAR. This year, because the Village one again didn't step up, aside from the people mentioned in the article, the rink would not exist if not for the efforts of people like the Dodulik, Edmundson, Haines, Heidmann, Hill, Spurry and Wells families. Above all, without the efforts of Debra Dryden and Lori Rojas researching, urging, and encouraging all these efforts, I have a feeling we would still be talking and not skating. It took a whole village of people working together to build this rink, it will take the same to keep it up. Regards, Hugo Rojas
Nancy Weas January 25, 2013 at 02:55 PM
Thank you to the awesome volunteers...I hope you have thawed out!
Jeff Rumage January 25, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Thanks, I just tweaked the wording a little bit in the story.
aaaaaa January 25, 2013 at 06:26 PM
Ummm! Hello?!?! Klode Park??????
Jeff Rumage January 25, 2013 at 06:36 PM
I cannot say for sure, but I don't believe the village has plans to flood Klode Park. I called the Department of Public Works yesterday about the matter, and I will let the community know what I find out if my phone call is returned.
Been there done that January 25, 2013 at 07:24 PM
I can't believe the crackpots haven't chimed in on how some how this is Obamas fault, and since water isn't free what a huge waste if taxpayer money this is. Thank you to those families who volunteer for this, and I can't wait until my children are old enough to use it. However I don't want to wish my life away nor have my kids grow up any faster than they are so I will patiently wait and enjoy the years leading up to using the rink. :)
Bob McBride January 25, 2013 at 07:36 PM
I can't believe the crackpots haven't chimed in on how some how this is Obamas fault, and since water isn't free what a huge waste if taxpayer money this is. *************** They have now.
Been there done that January 25, 2013 at 10:55 PM
Thanks Bob. When I read many of the comments posted on here, I think of Dr. Phil, who would say, "How fun are you to live with?."
jw January 26, 2013 at 01:21 AM
Just for the record . . . a similar effort was organized in the mid- to late 1990s by families in the Cahill neighborhood . . . the Frauens, Kowalskys, Phillips, Wests, and several others. These families flooded the rink for three years until there were a few winters when the weather did not cooperate. Kudos to our current families for taking up again what has been a long-standing tradition in this community -- pitching in and making our village great.
NObama 2012 January 26, 2013 at 05:05 PM
The one and only reason that Cahill Park was not flooded by the DPW for ice skating in Barack Hussein Obama. Barack Hussein Obama hates babies- he considers them punishment. “If {my daughters} make mistakes, I don’t want them punished with a baby.” Obama hates America! His Pastor hated America, his wife was never proud of America, and Obama hates America! Barack Hussein Obama sent 920.3 million of our tax dollars to fund Hamas. And above all black people don't ice skate, so by default Obama hates ICE SKATING!

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