PRIMGHAR—The Primghar Skating Rink is ready to roll again.

The facility, located in the city’s recreation center at 240 S. Hayes Ave., will be open for the first time in almost two years 7:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16.

The rink was closed all of last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m glad to see it reopened,” said Don Steffens, an 81-year-old Primghar native who has managed the rink the past 60 years.

Admission to the rink is $3 per person, and pop and candy will be available for skaters for $1 apiece.

The building has not sat completely idle during its closure. Earlier this summer, the city completed facility renovations using funding it received from the O’Brien County Community Foundation Grant and the Paint Iowa Beautiful program.

The updates included adding new insulation to the structure and giving the exterior a fresh coat of paint.

City clerk Carol Chicoine noted how there are not many skating rinks in and around N’West Iowa, so preserving the one in Primghar is an important goal.

“We don’t have a pool, but we’ve got to try to find something and this is something unique in the area, so we needed to reinvest into it and it’s well received,” Chicoine said.

She also spoke of how the rink provides an affordable activity people of all ages in town and the surrounding area can enjoy.

“For five bucks, you can go skate and have a pop and candy bar,” she said.

The skating rink has been a longtime institution in the O’Brien County seat community, but the building’s identity has changed through the years.

For instance, the building was a skating rink during Steffens’ time in junior high but closed partway through his high school career after the owner moved to California. The city sold it for $1 to a furniture store in town to be used as extra storage space.

“One day, I thought, ‘Well, maybe we should see what we can do about opening that thing up again,’” Steffens said. “So crazy me, I got involved and I went into the furniture store and I talked to the lady that owned that building then.”

The store owner agreed to sell the building back for $1. Steffens helped run the space as a youth center but eventually asked the board that oversaw the building about bringing back a skating rink. The board agreed, and Steffens said the rink has been there ever since.

The rink will remain operational Saturday nights for open skating through the remainder of October. In November, it will be open two additional hours on Saturdays, 1:30-3:30 p.m. Groups also will be able to book the space at other times for private parties.

Chicoine said a trial run skating event took place at the rink Oct. 3, when O’Brien County 4-H’ers had a party there.

Another upcoming special skating session she mentioned will be a thank-you party in honor of Steffens’ 60 years managing the rink. He passed the milestone last year, although the rink’s closure prevented a celebration from taking place.

Steffens plans on helping with the reopening event and stay involved with the rink for a while, however, he has been training 26-year-old Tanner Hedberg to take over as the rink’s new manager.

“Sixty years was long enough,” Steffens said of his tenure in that role.

Hedberg is a paraprofessional at South O’Brien Elementary and used to skate at the rink every week while growing up in town.

“I just really fell in love with skating,” Hedberg said. “I’m neighbors with Don, so I know him really well too. When I heard he was retiring, I really wanted to take over, learn from him and just keep it going for the kids here in O’Brien County because it’s such a good thing for the city to have.”

He has enjoyed learning the ropes of overseeing the facility from Steffens, which includes fixing skates, cleaning the skating floor, running the register and working the music system. During operating hours, Hedberg will work alongside others who will help hand out skates and run the snack counter.

Hedberg is excited to take the management baton from Steffens and looks forward to seeing familiar faces and families during skate nights.

“Working at the school, it’s been great to see the kids be excited that is opening up again,” he said. “I’ve had kids for the past week and a half now — when they found out I’m running it — ask me every day, ‘When’s the skating rink going to be open? When’s the skating rink going to be open?’”

This story was first published in the Oct. 16, 2021, print edition of The South O'Brien Sun.