If you’re looking for a quaint touch of real winter--or what passes for it in Southern California--you’ll find it in Thousand Oaks this holiday season.
It’s an outdoor ice rink. Nestled under the oak grove next to the Civic Arts Plaza, this expensive patch of ice opens Thanksgiving Day for public skating and lessons through New Year’s weekend.
The ice rink and the events surrounding it are being called “Winter Wonderland on Ice,” with twinkling lights on trees, a food court selling hot chocolate and snacks, and music filling the air.
"[Picture] a mini-Central Park with a pond,” said Mardy Medders, director of development and special events for the Alliance of the Arts, the fund-raising arm of the Civic Arts Plaza.
Well, that might be a bit of a stretch, but for kids who have only tasted ice skating as an indoor sport, this outdoor rink should give them an inkling of real winter. The 2-inch-deep rink measures 40 by 60 feet, and can accommodate up to 100 skaters at a time. A giant generator keeps the ice from melting.
The rink will operate Monday through Thursday and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Actual skating sessions are one hour long at a cost of $6 for adults, $3 for children 4-12 years, free for those under 3 years. Family tickets are $15. For $2, nonskaters can watch the action from bleachers. Skate rentals are $2. Although ice time lasts one hour, visitors can linger up to three hours in the park-like setting.
Lessons are available through the Peter Carruthers Skating School, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Carruthers, who lives in Thousand Oaks, took home a silver medal from the 1984 Olympics, where he skated in the pairs competition with his sister, Kitty.
Now a skating commentator for Fox Sports and Turner Sports, Carruthers will also serve as “celebrity ambassador,” along with his skating wife, Dina, during the rink’s tenure in Thousand Oaks. Carruthers might even be seen on the ice from time to time.
Giving kids a chance to experience skating outdoors brings back childhood memories for Carruthers. “That’s how I started, skating in my backyard,” he said. His father would flood the yard at Carruthers’ home in Burlington, Mass., during the winter.
Bringing this bit of winter ambience to Thousand Oaks hasn’t been a snap, even though the company behind the rink, Santa Monica-based Bietak Productions, has installed them in places like Disneyland, Universal City Walk, and San Francisco’s Embarcadero.
The total tab is more than $400,000, but donations have whittled that figure down to somewhere between $200,000 and $250,000. Still, the Alliance hopes to raise $100,000, or at least break even, as well as spread the word about entertainment offerings at the Civic Arts Plaza. If the project is a hit, it might become an annual tradition in Thousand Oaks.
Even though there won’t be snow on the ground, there will be a nip in the air. Medders is advising skaters to wear warm clothing, especially at night. And for those who still get chilly, the Alliance will operate a booth selling, among other things, sweatshirts.
* “Winter Wonderland on Ice” is a public outdoor ice rink and skating school operating from Thanksgiving to New Year’s weekend at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. For information about the rink, call (805) 449-2590. For information about the school, (310) 576-2400.
For young shoppers and astute bargain hunters, the annual Kids Swap Meet is Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon, at the Thousand Oaks Center. This is no dinky little garage sale. Now in its sixth year, the swap meet draws 500 to 600 shoppers, who eyeball everything from bikes to puzzles.
There are about 112 spaces at $5 apiece that are open to kid merchants 6 to 12 years old. The children are welcome to cram as much stuff as they can into the space.
“We fill up every year,” said Lori Olbrich, recreation coordinator at the center, located at 2525 N. Moorpark Road. “We always have a waiting list [for spaces].”
Some of the kids doll up their spaces with special signs they’ve made, like “Becky’s Bargains,” Olbrich said. “A lot of them take it seriously.”
One year, two brothers with side-by-side spaces sold Nintendo stuff, along with some other big-ticket items, and took home about $500.
Olbrich is starting to see some trends in the sale items. Two years ago kids were selling lots of Mutant Ninja Turtle items. “This year it will probably be Power Rangers,” she said. “It’s whatever was hot when they were little.”
The kids run their booths, with a little parental help. Surprisingly, the swap meet draws a lot of adult shoppers, including toy collectors, preschool teachers and grandparents. And, of course, plenty of families attend.
“It’s a fun thing to come to,” Olbrich said.
For information, call 381-2793.