Marshalls Skate Fests in Chicago and Houston Deemed an Enormous Success

Sasha Cohen works with a young girl at the Marshalls Skate Fest in Chicago.

Chicago Skate Fest Photos Page 1
Chicago Skate Fest Photos Page 2
Houston Skate Fest Photos Page 1
Houston Skate Fest Photos Page 2

(9/21/04) - The Marshalls Skate Fests in Chicago and Houston took place last weekend as more than 600 skaters received the opportunity to skate with World silver medalist Sasha Cohen while taking to the ice for fun and fitness. The goal of the Skate Fests is to encourage new skaters to take up figure skating as a pastime and sport while enabling U.S. Figure Skating members to get involved and meet one of their favorite skaters.

Cindy Walker found out about the Houston Skate Fest while reading the Houston Chronicle and was able to register both of her daughters, who skate recreationally at the Texas Ice Stadium. Her daughter Christa, 10, was excited to be involved.

"I think this is truly amazing!" Christa Walker said. "It was so wonderful to be out there with Sasha. That was the first run-in I've had with a celebrity, and it was just terrific. I think that this is a great idea, and U.S. Figure Skating should do it again!"

DuPage Figure Skating Club member Adriana Gilli had a similar positive experience.

"It was so amazing we got to be here," Gilli, 14, said of the Chicago event. "I thought the event was really fun and exciting, and Sasha gave me lots of helpful hints. I think it's so nice they (Marshalls) sponsored the event. It shows they care, and they want to help us achieve our dreams. It was just all very inspiring."

Skaters of all ages and abilities were welcome to attend the one-day events after registering on www.usfigureskating.org. Many skaters and parents were waiting eagerly for registration to open at 11 a.m. on Sept. 9 so they could secure their spot. A number of skaters drove long distances to participate, and some even flew in from as far as Phoenix and Detroit. Ann Marie Polejewski and her mother, Lu Ann, flew to the Chicago event from Minneapolis.

"We hit the web site at 10:30, then at 10:50," Lu Ann Polejewski said. "We were counting down the days to register. Once we got confirmation we made our plane reservation. We didn't think twice; we just knew we were coming!"

Skaters arrived at the rinks (Seven Bridges in Chicago and Ice Skate USA at Memorial City Mall in Houston) in time to sign in at registration, at which time they were entertained by music and giveaways from Radio Disney. Each skater was assigned one of four time slots, then split into groups based on skill level. They were taught by top area coaches in a fun and encouraging atmosphere, and Cohen visited each group during the 30-minute clinics. Both days ran smoothly as all participants had the opportunity to learn from Cohen on the ice.

"I had such a great time at both of the Marshalls Skate Fests this weekend," Cohen said. "It was wonderful to see so many skaters come out to participate and get involved on the ice. I met so many enthusiastic skaters, both kids and adults, lots of beginners and plenty of U.S. Figure Skating members. We had a blast! I'm thankful to Marshalls for making all of this happen and to all of the skaters for coming and making the day such a success."

In a break between sessions, skaters were able to get a free autographed poster from Sasha or have one of their personal items autographed. Many photos and home videos were taken, and the long lines in both Chicago and Houston wound their way to the front giving every person a chance to meet Cohen. Prizes and giveaways such as Marshalls gift certificates and autographed skates were also given away throughout the event.

A local television station talks with Sasha Cohen about Skate Fest in Houston.
"I have to say, everything has been handled beautifully," said Lauren Cordell, mother of Wagon Wheel FSC skater Skylar Cordell, 12. "Everyone has done a wonderful job putting this together and we're thrilled to be here. Everything was handled well online, and then we got an actual call to follow up when we didn't get our confirmation. That was great very personal. We're thrilled we're able to be here with an Olympic skater. What a nice thing to do! Sasha is a great role model."

Kathleen Blum, a Houston skater and judge, agreed: "This is so exciting! We've all had a lot of fun today. As a judge and a lifetime skater it's a thrill to be here. I skated in the '70s, and now I'm back!"

The Skate Fests aim to create awareness and excitement for the U.S. Figure Skating Basic Skills Program presented by Marshalls. More than 800 Basic Skills programs are offered in arenas throughout the country, involving more than 100,000 participants and allowing children and adults alike to discover or rediscover the joys of skating. The program keeps skaters enthusiastic about learning from the first time they step on the ice to the moment they reach their goals.

The final Marshalls Skate Fest of the season is set to take place in New York City on Nov. 20. Registration will open in early November. Participation in the Skate Fests is free, but pre-registration is required and space is limited. The only way to register is online at www.usfigureskating.org. More information can be found on the U.S. Figure Skating web site prior to registration. Additional information will be aired on ABC-TV in New York City.

New York City
Saturday, Nov. 20
12-2:30 p.m.
Wollman Rink, Central Park
830 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10021
212.439.6900