Wholesome, old-fashioned entertainment brought families like the McKays to the Vintage-Parks Canada skating rink Saturday for the annual Regency Skate event.
Participating in reenactments is very much ingrained in his family’s life, Chris McKay said. Together with his wife Shayna and two boys, David and Iain, the family donned their best “regency wear” while skating laps around the outdoor rink.
But they’re more involved than just participating in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s newest winter tradition – McKay said he was the one who suggested holding the event. Through reenactment events over the years he said he’s spent a lot of time with Peter Martin, the fort’s event co-ordinator.
“He and I have worked together for a decade. We just kind of come up with ideas for things that we can do here, and this was one of them. We were just sitting around chatting, and I was like, 'We have a skating rink here. Have you ever thought of doing a Regency Skate party?' ”
Last year the first Regency Skate began the new tradition and Parks Canada’s corporate programming co-ordinator, Scott Finlay, said he doesn’t think it will die out any time soon.
“I think that what we’ve established is actually a pretty good winning combination of things. Everyone seems to enjoy what we’ve put on,” he said.
“That’s what traditions are based on, right.”
McKay said he really liked the idea of showing the leisure side of reenacting.
“For me, and for a lot of the reenactors, it’s nice to see an event that doesn’t necessarily focus on the military. I know it’s really popular to have guns and muskets and firing at the forts, and we all certainly like that as well. But there’s another side to the regency and another side to the reenacting,” he said.
He said he thinks that’s why the regency skate has been such a success so far.
“It’s the other leisure activities they would have done as well,” McKay said.
It’s that old-fashioned atmosphere that Finlay said he thinks people are looking for.
“I think it’s just a really wonderful old-fashioned thing to do, you know. You’ve got the bonfires going, you can go get hot chocolate, take a ride in the carriage,” he said.
Free carriage rides were offered from the rink to the fort with admission to the fort during the event. Skating at the outdoor rink is free, but skates can be rented for $5.
After skaters and reenactors flashed their intricate period costumes while mingling and skating for a few hours, the best attire was judged by Finlay and Julia Grcevic, an interpretation co-ordinator for Parks Canada, in a quick fashion show.
Abel Land took the prize for the men.
“Anyone brave enough to wear those skates deserves to win,” Finlay said.
Land strapped traditional period skates to his boots, going a step above costume expectations.
“I wouldn’t expect anyone to wear traditional skates,” Finlay said before spotting Land easing his way onto the ice before judging time.
The rink will remain open until March 22, weather dependent.
Family and evening skate:
Friday – 5 to 9 p.m.
Saturday – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2 to 5 p.m., 6 to 9 p.m.
Sunday – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2 to 5 p.m.
Monday to Thursday – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.