The skating must go on: Orange business raising money for floor refurbishing

  • Annabelle Barrett, 3, skates through a game of limbo at the Orange Armory. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Layla Guilmette, 11, skates with her light up roller blades at the Orange Armory. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Jaylice Gary, 10, skates with light up roller blades at the Orange Armory. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Adults enjoy a Saturday afternoon roller skating session at the Orange Armory. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Emma Barrett, 7, left, skates with her sister Annabelle, 3, at the Orange Armory. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Avery Nicoletti, 6, skates through a game of limbo at the Orange Armory. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Nick White, 15, returns a pair of rented skates at the Orange Armory. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Part of the roller skating crew at the Orange Armory. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Orange Roller Skating is looking to replace the floors upstairs at the Orange Armory, where roller skating has been held since 1980. Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 4/5/2019 3:18:37 PM

Walking up the stone steps of the Orange Armory on a Saturday evening, opening the doors of the 105-year-old building and stepping into the historic brick structure is like walking into a different world.

The antique aesthetic of the former Massachusetts National Guard headquarters gives way to a dimness cut with flashing electric lights of pink, blue and green, booming dance music, and children and adults roller skating, roller blading and speeding across the room’s old wooden floors.

It’s a weekly party, Orange Roller Skating, that’s been taking place since 1980. The party keeps going, but the building naturally wears and tears, leading to a recent effort to refurbish the floors and have a class skating area for the community.

Now held on Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., as well as from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., open skating offers the fun physical activity, roller skates or roller blades rentals, popcorn and a drink all for $5.

Local disc jockey Bobby “Bobby C” Campbell is frequently brought in to host open skating, and private parties are also occasionally held — parties start at $100 with no cap on the number of guests allowed. Orange Roller Skating events are even themed if taking place around a holiday, like on March 16, when children wore neon green shirts, green beaded necklaces and shamrock-adorned hats for St. Patrick’s Day.

According to Jolynn Novak, who runs Orange Roller Skating, part of the appeal is how affordable the parties and open skates are.

However, that means there isn’t much money left for improvements to the decades-old skating rink.

“There’s a lot of things in rough shape,” Novak said. “There are a lot of holes and divets for people to go around. It’s not really making people fall, but it should be fixed.”

“It’s from years of not being taken care of,” she added.

Resident Eliza Graton, who skated at the armory as a child, noticed the scuffed floors when bringing her family to open skate last year. Graton, a member of the Orange Elementary Schools Parent-Teacher Organization with a background in human services and community organization, started the push to refurbish the flooring at the skating rink by approaching Novak and her team — Reggie Gordan, Sue Gordan, Laurie Guilmette, Joe LaValle and Bill Ruby.

“(I) always looked forward to skating with my family at the Orange Roller Skating rink,” Graton said. “Over the years, I’ve brought my family back to the rink now and again, and have noticed how the floors have changed due to wear and tear. I wanted to help fix this.”

They decided a fundraising event is necessary for Orange Roller Skating to replace the long-worn floors.

“Our mission is to collaborate with our community by providing a safe, family-oriented, enjoyable place to have fun,” Graton said.

Orange Roller Skating is holding its first-ever vendor fair on Saturday, April 20, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Orange Armory, 135 East Main St. More than 50 vendors are expected at the fair, including Lularoe, Mary Kay, Nu Skin, Organic Body Care, PartyLite and Usborne Books, and a collection of food, photography, home decorations, nail care and jewelry vendors.

According to Graton, the ultimate goal is to refurbish the floors, possibly repair or replace the heat traps, and raise money to support a grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission to fix the Orange Armory’s front steps — however much money granted would require an equal amount of matching funds from Orange Roller Skating.

Reggie Gordon, who has been skating for 35 years, is another resident who would like to see improvements to the roller skating rink. Recently, he walked onto the rink, looked down and pointed at a rough, gray patch of flooring — a spot that someone had attempted to fix, but with different material and texture than the surrounding floor.

Even those spots, Gordon said, should be replaced to ensure smooth skating and prevent safety hazards — although it is a skate-at-your-own-risk establishment. The problem, Gordon said, is he can’t see the town allowing the flooring of the historic building to be fixed in a way that doesn’t preserve the original look of the Orange Armory. Gordon and other volunteers say this could cost thousands.

“It’s a historic building. The floor has to match,” Gordon said. “This is the first real project (the roller skating rink) has ever had.”

The biggest expense would be urethane floor coating specialized for roller skating. It would make a big difference to the smoothness of a ride, which is the whole point, Gordon said. He added that new roller blades and roller skates — his personal preference — would be a great alternative if flooring can’t be done.

Gordon added that, regardless of if new flooring can be afforded, he hopes improvements will attract more people to the business. Having Orange Roller Skating is special for the community, he said, and has provided him many great memories.

“I’m hoping this vendor fair gives it a boost,” Gordon said. “This place, it’s been here but it’s been mostly hush-hush.”

According to Novak, the goal is to refurbish the roller skating floors in the summer, before Orange Roller Skating reopens in the colder months next year. Skating is offered from September to June.

Novak and her daughter, Jaylice, 10, had been going to roller skating at the Orange Armory for several years before Novak bought the business in 2017.

She had sentimental memories of the place after going “every single weekend” with her daughter, and it was an ideal business for the single mother once Jaylice was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and Novak had to find a place “where you can bring your kid to work.”

Since then, Novak said she has seen the number of attendees skyrocket from around 20 people on Saturdays to around 100. Novak said she’s continued the Orange Roller Skating community tradition.

“Going there with my daughter, I’ve made a skate family,” Novak said. “I get memories with my daughter there every day even now.”

It’s in its 40th year, and Novak hopes Orange Roller Skating will stick around to get its own venue someday.

First priority, though, is raising money for the floor, starting with the vendor fair. She’s hoping to raise a few thousand dollars to begin refurbishing the floor, which will be done in patches if not enough is raised.

The April 20 vendor fair will include a chaperoned “kids zone” for children ages 2 through 12, Graton said, with crafts like face painting and a photo booth for children while their parents shop.

Donations are part of the fundraising effort, too, Graton said, and may be sent through PayPal to orangerollerskating@gmail.com.

Staff reporter David McLellan started working at the Greenfield Recorder in 2018. He covers Orange, New Salem and Wendell. He can be reached at: dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.




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