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Freewheeling

Friday nights are a blur of motion at the Lake Nebagamon Auditorium. Music pounds, the scent of popcorn fills the air and youth glide around the floor on roller skates.

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Friday nights are a blur of motion at the Lake Nebagamon Auditorium. Music pounds, the scent of popcorn fills the air and youth glide around the floor on roller skates.

The tunes and styles may have changed, but Friday night roller skating has been a village tradition for decades.

"I used to roller skate here back in the 50s and 60s," Michelle Hughes said Friday as she watched children zoom past. She brought her sons to the winter skating sessions when they were young. These days, Hughes keeps her son company as her grandchildren -- Sophia, Isabella and Josie Hanson -- circle the auditorium floor.

"This is a gas," Hughes said. "I mean, they have so much fun."

Kevin Knaack brings his three sons -- 6-year-old Ryan, 8-year-old Steven and 10-year-old Michael -- to the sessions. It's good, simple fun for both youth and parents, he said. And it gives them all a chance to socialize.

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He and fellow Lake Nebagamon resident Mike Saari were the only parents who laced up Friday. Saari remembers attending the weekly skates as a boy.

"It's a lot of fun," he said, taking a break from gliding across the floor with his daughters, Gabbi, 5, and Annabelle, 3. "The kids love to come." It is, said his wife Jen, the highlight of their day.

The first skaters in the door Friday were 9-year-old twins Angie and Bree Graves. The two come every week.

"Because we think it's fun," Bree said.

Emalee Harvey has been coming to the skating sessions since she was 2.

"I was kind of a bad skater, but I got better," said the 9-year-old, who admits her only trick is being able to "go super-fast."

What does she appreciate most about the skating?

"You get to hang out with friends," Emalee said. "It's fun and you get to meet a lot of new friends and you get to hang out with them, too."

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Maddie Nevin, 11, likes watching the youngsters skate, although skating around them can be a challenge.

"I love the music," she said. The young skaters get to choose the radio station for the night, generally popular music.

"I usually come with a friend," said Brooklyn Meiners, 12. "Just to hang out, skate and listen to music."

Fellow 12-year-old Kayla Crawford said she hopes to start attending every week.

"It's fun," she said, and gives her a chance to socialize with her friends from Northwestern Middle School. "I don't get to hang out with my friends at recess."

About 10 years ago, the Lake Nebagamon Volunteer Fire Department took over running the weekly event from the Lion's Club. The club didn't have enough members to do it, said volunteer firefighter Laura Anderson, but the fire department members didn't want to see it end.

"We just thought it was good for the community," she said.

So every Friday they pop popcorn, set up skates, tune the radio dial and open the doors for skaters of all ages. None of them, however, put on skates.

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"It's probably better for us to stay on our feet," Anderson said, to be ready to assist the youth. They also set up a corner game and two rounds of limbo each Friday.

The skating runs 7-9 p.m. in the auditorium. Admission is $1 or a nonperishable food item for the Rural Care and Share Food Shelf, based in Poplar. All the funds collected go right back into roller skating and other fire-department-supported community activities, said Fire Chief Jim Dawson.

The firefighters are also responsible for flooding the village ice rink and shoveling it clear of snow.

"It's been a big thing this year," Dawson said, especially with the new warming shack built by the Moss family.

But roller skating has been as popular, if not more so. The fire department is currently in need of skates - both inline and regular - for the auditorium. They maintain two racks of skates for those who don't have their own. New and gently used skates can be dropped off at the Lake Nebagamon Auditorium between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

And everyone is invited to the weekly skating sessions, which will continue until late March or early April.

"We have a good time," Anderson said.

Related Topics: DOUGLAS COUNTY
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