Finding a Home for Roller-Skating in Vermont
November 20, 2023
Alicia Taylor and Joanna Alpizar met at a pop-up roller-skating event in Burlington. The two BIPOC women became fast friends and are now on a mission to create a public, welcoming, year-round space for roller-skating in Vermont, specifically in the Burlington area.
A Lifelong Love for Roller-Skating
-Joanna Alpizar skates at The Frame in Burlington. Main photo: Alicia Taylor roller-skates with her daughter at The Frame.
Taylor grew up in Jeffersonville and roller-skated as a child at the former Skateland rink in Chittenden County before it closed. She returned to skating in 2022 and recently started Joy Riders, a BIPOC skate club. Alpizar, who has roller skated for most of her life, moved to Vermont with her family from California in 2020 and founded the Vermont Skate Society, which is open to everyone. She launched the Vermont Skate Society to help honor her late cousin, Stephanie.
The Vermont Skating Society and Joy Riders each hold individual roller-skating events at places like the ONE Community Center, Talent Skate Park, The Frame on the Burlington Waterfront, the Bristol Recreation Department, and Maple Street Park in Essex Junction.
Taylor stopped skating by the time she was a teen and decided to give it another whirl as she approached 40. “It definitely took a little bit of bravery and bit of putting myself out there,” she says. “But it was just instant joy and I wanted to hold onto that joy.” That happy feeling sparked her decision to launch Joy Riders.
From Exclusive to Affordable: The Evolution of Roller-Skating
-A warm October evening brought together families and friends at The Frame in Burlington.
James Plimpton opened the nation’s first roller skating rink in New York in 1863 as a private club catering to the yachting crowd. Another rink opened soon after at an elite club in Newport, R.I. In 1884, L. M. Richardson of Chicago obtained a patent for ball-bearing rollers, opening the door for roller skates to be mass-produced and accessible to everyone.
Vermont’s roller rinks once included Burlington’s Ethan Allen Park, Skateland in Williston and Essex, Broadacres Roller Rink in Colchester and Rollerville in Rutland. Now there are no indoor roller-skating rinks in the state.
A Family-Friendly, Affordable Activity
The documentary “United Skates” premiered on HBO in 2019. It showcases the significance of skating rinks for Black communities and the activists who were fighting to keep rinks open as they faced closures around the country.
In the documentary, the cameras follow Reggie Brown, a roller-skating ambassador and community advocate. In an interview with the Associated Press, Brown says roller-skating teaches patience, athleticism, purpose, positive reinforcement, determination—and getting up after a fall.
“Roller-skating is a little bit more than going in circles on a couple of wheels,” he said in the interview. “It’s fun. It’s an enjoyable exercise. It’s healthy, and there are a lot of great benefits. But the socioeconomics benefits to roller-skating are higher than anybody can think of.”
Brown adds: “Name me another activity that’s family-affordable, that you can go to on a Saturday and take five members of your family and you can skate for four hours, and everybody can have a good time and exercise.”
His words ring especially true as the cold weather descends upon Vermont.
“We’re entering winter,” Alpizar says. “There are families who can’t afford to take everyone skiing. My family can’t, but my family can afford to pay $10 (a person) to go skating at Talent. That is definitely more affordable than going up to the resort.”
-Joanna Alpizar skates at The Frame in Burlington.
Happy Vermont Podcast: Finding a Home for Roller-Skating in Vermont
In this podcast episode of Happy Vermont, Alicia Taylor and Joanna Alpizar talk about the joy of roller-skating, the history of roller-skating, and creating a welcoming skating space for the community. Follow Joy Riders and the Vermont Skate Society on Instagram. Listen to the episode on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.