Ice rink brings Michigan community together during dark winter

Steve Hartman
·2 min read

When that inner voice spoke to Scott Chittle and told him to "build it," the Manton, Michigan resident felt compelled to listen. When the pandemic forced shut downs, Chittle decided what Manton needed more than anything was an outdoor ice rink.

Never mind that his own kids didn't even skate — or that hardly any kids in the city skated. But he felt the community needed some place safe to gather, whether they realized it or not.

When folks failed to flock to his house, Chittle actually went door to door coercing them to come.

"I was upset," he said. "I was like, 'Are you kidding me?! Tell your kid to come outside and go ice skating!'"

It's not really "if you build it, they will come." Rather, it's: If you build it and go harass some families, they'll come.

"That's true, as well, because they're coming, that's for certain," Chittle said, laughing.

They are coming — in droves.

A northern Michigan dad built an ice rink in his backyard from scratch to give the kids in his small town a bit of fun and magic through this dark winter.  / Credit: Handout / Derek Sutton
A northern Michigan dad built an ice rink in his backyard from scratch to give the kids in his small town a bit of fun and magic through this dark winter. / Credit: Handout / Derek Sutton

Now, Chittle's side yard is the place to be in Manton. The dark winter is now springing with joy.

"None of these kids have electronics in their hands. It's amazing!" said one parent.

The parents are all in. They helped Chittle buy enough secondhand skates for everyone and snapped up every hockey stick they could find. There's a hot fire, hot chocolate and hotdogs.

When Chittle's inner voice told him to build that rink, he had no idea what he was really creating. For those who come, the sounds and smells and smiles of this winter will be forever lasting — the kind children need to cherish their childhoods.

"We all know that you've got to provide for your kids, but somehow you've got to give them some magic every now and again," Chittle said. "Just give a kid some magic. It doesn't get any better than that."

A northern Michigan dad built an ice rink in his backyard from scratch to give the kids in his small town a bit of fun and magic during the pandemic.  / Credit: Handout / Darick Hosea
A northern Michigan dad built an ice rink in his backyard from scratch to give the kids in his small town a bit of fun and magic during the pandemic. / Credit: Handout / Darick Hosea

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