Fire and ice, two things that usually don’t mix very well, seemed to get along just fine at the annual Valparaiso Parks Foundation's Party in the Park, with ice sculptures and live fire drumming as just part of the evening’s activities to kick off the beginning of ice skating season at the rink.
Frank Kusbel, board member of the Valparaiso Parks Foundation, was on hand to enjoy the evening and took a few minutes to speak to Ideas In Motion Media.
“This is the third of our three annual fundraising events. Funds raised through the foundation ultimately go to help fund the Valparaiso Parks Department. The money goes toward repair, maintenance and parks improvements throughout Valparaiso like painting, facility maintenance and all sorts of things that help us keep the parks safe and beautiful,” Kusbel told IIMM.
He said that it takes about a week to get the ice rink set up.
“There is a cooling system built into the ground here so that keeps the ice frozen on warmer days. The guys spent the last few days setting up the fence around the rink, covering the ground with water, and letting it set up. It takes some time, but people really enjoy it.”
Jamie Sulcer, vice chair on Valpo Parks Foundation was also on hand to speak with us.
“We try to feature one park each year, but money raised goes into a general fund to benefit all the parks in the city,” said Sulcer.
Sulcer explained that the event last year drew over 300 people, and raised over $50,000 for the parks. She expects this year’s event to bring in nearly as many people, and to raise as much money – if not more - thanks to the generous contributions of Valparaiso Parks Foundation Partners, including Urschel Laboritories, Task Force Tips, NITCO, Lakeside Wealth Management and Porter Regional Hospital.
“We also are very fortunate to have the help of companies that sponsored this event. Companies like Indiana Beverage and 1st Source Bank, among others. They really help to make this possible,” said Sulcer.
In addition to the ice sculpting and fire drumming, some of the highlights of the evening included outdoor grilling and dinner provided by Kelsey’s Steak House, entertainment by popular local musicians Chris & Lou, and – of course – the main event: a hockey smackdown between members of the local police and fire departments.
One very lucky event participant even won a ride on the Zamboni.
Ali and Curt Hawkins, retired Valparaiso police captain, was there to support his team in the hockey game.
“I heard that the Fire Department was planning on being here to challenge our local police to a charity hockey match so, of course, I had to come out here tonight to cheer on my guys. Also – it’s the season kickoff for the skating rink here, and our daughter Erin is visiting from out of state, so we wanted to show her some of the changes that have happened here since she left,” Curt told IIMM.
Ali says that she enjoys all the entertainment that Valparaiso offers.
“We come down quite often during the summer. We enjoy some of the bands that they have playing here on the stage. Just coming to town for a walk is so nice. There are plenty of shops, and restaurants. It’s just a very nice place to come visit,” said Ali.
Their daughter, Erin Warren, who currently works as an ER nurse from New Mexico, was impressed by the ways her little hometown has changed since she left.
“Coming back here, I was amazed by just how much Valpo has changed since I left four years ago. It’s all very positive. I really enjoyed growing up here. It’s a small town, but there is always something to do,” Erin told IIMM.
The skating rink is open daily throughout the winter season, and skate rentals are available. For exact hours and fees, visit http://www.centralparkplazavalpo.com/2167/Pricing-Hours.
If you would like more information on the Valparaiso Parks Foundation, you can find them on the web at http://www.valpoparksfoundation.org/default.asp.