Last summer, it seemed the end of the world was close at hand—or at least, that was the dark specter hovering over local, indoor roller skating rink Skate World.
“Too many people were under the impression we closed,” says Skate World manager, Angus Laird. He’s referencing the much-rumored demise of Springfield’s iconic, indoor roller rink after reports of the owners’ deaths prompted the business’s move into a legal trust. “We were doing really well, paying our bills,” Laird recalls, “but then the reports came out that we were closed—even though we weren’t—and business fell off kinda bad.”
Consider too, that Skate World was built in the mid-1970s, and today, the rink still radiates disco fever, day-glow décor, and the Dick Clark school of etiquette. Not exactly the mindset of today’s video gaming, social media-buzzed teens. Nor a strong incentive to new, prospective rink owners, especially given the rumored price tag of $4.2 million.
Enter Dave and Debbie Berg, of Puyallup, Washington. The Bergs are impassioned skaters with wheels long familiar with the floor at Skate World. At age 13, Debbie first laced on skates at the rink, then worked as an employee until the late ’90s. For the past 15 years, the Bergs—who boast pedigrees as national figure skating champions—have traveled to Springfield every two weeks to teach classes. They are now the proud new owners of Skate World.
The Bergs don’t plan any major changes to the Skate World formula. “Just little tweaks here and there,” says Debbie. She’s talking about a few new birthday party packages and pizza added to the snack bar menu. Oh, and the purchase of 600 new pairs of rental skates. Seems that Skate World’s long-standing emphasis on safe, family-friendly recreation has served the community well over the years.
And now that the dark rumors are fading, big numbers of wheels are starting to roll again. Weekends typically attract near 1,000 visitors a day. Grade school wobblers. Mothers pushing strollers. Teens sporting headphones and glow sticks. Hand-holders. Speedsters. Stragglers. Showoffs.
Clearly, the end of the world has not yet arrived.
Greatest show in Eugene
The girls are at it again! It happens every spring when auditions and new show rehearsals start building: acrobatics, music, dance, and storytelling. Girl Circus!
It began at the Oregon Country Fair in 2001, back when Darcy DuRuz and Dave Bender first saw possibilities for tapping into a regional renaissance in circus arts. They envisioned circus milieu as a launch pad for female empowerment. Think personal growth through trapeze, hand-balancing, juggling, clowning, aerial acrobatics. . . .
“Circus,” says DuRuz, “is very hard. You have to fail a lot before you first succeed.” It’s a lesson, she learned during her decades doing opera, theater, and dance. Bender, her partner, is a professional musician. Both maintain ties to dozens of circus artists across the Northwest, folks they call on as faculty for Girl Circus training camps and shows. “The biggest underpinning for Girl Circus,” says DuRuz, “is the sense of community that comes from drawing all these people together.”
Another underpinning is DuRuz’s immeasurable investment in girl power: “What can I do to make these girls feel they can have a dream? That they can do whatever they want with their lives. That they can have a strong voice. That their creativity is valid.”
Girl Circus does shows. It also hosts a half-dozen training camps each summer. The camps are mostly scattered across rural Oregon and Washington. Modest enrollment costs encourage participation by girls from low-income backgrounds. Existing skills are not a requisite. No special background or body type is needed..
Another guiding principle of Girl Circus is that participation ensures forever membership in the GC community. It’s a concept that plays out via show performers often remaining active for a decade or more. Adrienne Wyse is a great example; she’s been with GC since age 11. Now 27, she mentors and teaches younger girls aerial disciplines like trapeze, ropes, and silks. She describes her tenure at Girl Circus as a full-circle experience, one that allows her to give back.
“The lessons and personal growth,” she says proudly, “will always be with me.”
Ode to Joy
The slogan imprinted on the 18-foot long, cartoon-like design affixed to the side of the LTD bus read “RELiSH the JOURNEY.” The image was a hot dog with wheels, blowing tiny hearts out of an exhaust pipe. Yes, the hot dog was slathered in relish!
Later this past winter, new images and slogans appeared on more than a dozen busses. One design on a rear panel featured a tiny heart on a cluster of purple fruit: “BORN for GRAPENESS.”
More hearts (and puns) are just around the corner.
The mobile designs and sentiments are the, ahem. . . heart-felt expressions of Dana Hawes-Davis. They represent Davis’s self-designed “doodle art” (her description) culled from her collection of pieces she refers to as JOY PSA. By the way, she’s self-financing her campaign.
Commercial branding? Product promotion? Ego inflation? No, for Davis, it’s really simpler than that. She’s on a personal mission she hopes will encourage others to spread joy.
“I can’t draw a straight line. I can’t draw a circle. My hands are kind of shaky,” says Davis with a chuckle, “but that’s okay. For me, it’s all about evoking something, whether it’s a laugh or a moment of softening when somebody’s stressed. It’s about shifting energy to something more positive.”
Davis’s most direct connection to spreading joy-based messages began a few years ago when she started crafting note cards from her doodles. The plan was to sell the cards at the Saturday Market. The cards soon gave way to small, laminated posters that she began tacking to phone poles and street lamps around town. Next came Instagram. Then she expanded her efforts to include sidewalk chalk drawings in public gathering places.
One day, while doing chalk art at a bus stop, Davis had a “eureka!” moment: Why not showcase her art in a mobile gallery? Why not use buses as mobile messengers?
“Our futures,” cautions Davis, “are so divided right now. Art is a place where people can come together. We are both people and birds. We sprinkle seeds wherever we can, and when the birds are ready, they come and feed. That’s when we become birds.”