KINGSBURG – It was icy cold, but heartwarming at the same time.
Kingsburg First Baptist Associate Pastor Brian Griffin said the idea to bring a skating rink to town for Christmas was an idea he envisioned years ago. So when their Interim Senior Pastor John Strubhar suggested they move forward with the idea, Griffin said, “I’m in.”
They’ve dubbed the event a Community Christmas and along with the rink, the congregation has volunteered to set up a live Nativity, Lego play place, story time, holiday crafts, outdoor fire pits and invited food vendors to take part.
And the best part is that aside from the food, it’s all free.
Griffin hopes that aside from having fun, families realize there’s a more important free gift available all year long.
“We want people to come and have a sense of community and feel welcomed. We want them to understand and learn through this that there’s more to Christmas. It’s really celebrating Jesus’ birth and the love God has for us. We want people to know that First Baptist is here for the community and to know we love them.”
Griffin said after some online research, they contracted with SmartRink Incorporated to set up the synthetic rink and arrange for free skates for participants.
“They’re an incredible company to work with. They’ve done a great job and have a great product,” he said of the rink.
Dec. 1 was the opening day and there are themes for each day of skating. Along with the rink, 18 congregation members and hundreds of volunteers are staffing a number of activities on the parking lot including a story time, craft booth, Lego play place, hay rides and a living nativity.
“We’ve also relying on people showing up to help which has already happened. To do this for nine days is a long stretch,” Griffin said.
Professional skater Kelly Abolt Matsuoka has recently moved to Kingsburg and said the idea of having one in town all year long would be a huge benefit as far as addressing health needs.
From the perspective of a child, it allows to be not just an athlete, but also an artist and a performer in one.
She also likes how ice skating fits in with the town’s Swedish theme and said it’s good exercise for old and young alike.
“It’d be nice to have a rink here since a Swedish Village goes with that. Ice skating started in those countries. I read about it and they even used bones as their blades.”
Meanwhile, parent Kristin Myers helped her two-year-old niece Sidney Sandquist slip skates onto her little size five shoes. Her daughter, Elli Myers, was already out on the rink.
“It’s nice to have something for the kids to do, especially in a small town, so you don’t have to drive all the way to Fresno. I love that they’re spreading the message of what Christmas is all about.”
Her nephew Josiah Sandquist, 4, said balancing on the blades wasn’t as hard as he thought it was going to be, but “it was icy.”
Dionysia Carrillo brought her daughters, Gianna Carrillo, 6, and Danielle Carrillo, 16, to the rink. They’ve skated in Fresno before and agreed it would “be awesome to have it all year,” Dionysia Carrillo said.
Danielle Carrillo said even if you fell, it was still a fun.
“You just get up and keep going.”
Gianna Carrillo was grateful for the opportunity to try skating.
“We really liked it and appreciate it.”
Later that night, Griffin said everyone’s been grateful for this first event and watching the children and adults giggle as they attempted to skate, often for the first time, was a joy.
“It’s our gift to the community and that’s why we named it a Community Christmas because it’s not a party for ourselves. It’s a true gift for the community, but Jesus is the real gift that came as our savior and Messiah. It means a lot to us that we’re able to share that with people.”
They’ll look into whether they can bring the rink and activities back again next year, he said.
“We want to do it again. We’ll see how it goes. As it builds, hopefully we can incorporate other churches and organizations.”