Blue Mound skaters show their stuff

LUVERNE -- Adrian, Pipestone, Ellsworth, Luverne, Brandon, Worthington, Sibley -- and even Alaska. Those are just a handful of the locales from which spectators and skaters alike will hail at this Saturday's Blue Mound Figure Skaters, Inc.'s 15th...

LUVERNE -- Adrian, Pipestone, Ellsworth, Luverne, Brandon, Worthington, Sibley -- and even Alaska.

Those are just a handful of the locales from which spectators and skaters alike will hail at this Saturday's Blue Mound Figure Skaters, Inc.'s 15th annual ice show.

"The World on Ice," with performances at 1:30 and 7 p.m., features more than 100 skaters from the surrounding region, all of them intent on demonstrating their various skills -- spirals, back crossovers, spins, jumps and more.

Skating director Mary Tilstra has been there from the beginning.

"We started out small and have really grown over the years," said Tilstra, who originated the Luverne figure skating group. "I was the only teacher we had for the first few months of the program, 15 years ago, and now we have eight instructors.


"It works out well, and that way it's not such a big job for any one person."

One of the newer instructors is Kathy Shearer, who moved to Le Mars, Iowa, from Alaska three years ago. Her husband, Marty, continues to commute every two weeks to his job in Alaska, and Shearer's daughter Katie, 13, trains with the Blue Mound Figure Skaters.

"Kathy is our upper-level teacher and has been very active in skating for many years," Tilstra said. "Katie is at the Freestyle Level 6 and is one of our more advanced skaters. She's a sweetheart, besides being talented, and is able to hear a piece of music and quickly make up lovely programs."

Skating fans who took in the Worthington Figure Skaters ice show on Feb. 26 may remember Katie Shearer as the featured guest soloist in two numbers at that event.

"She's wonderful," extolled Worthington resident Angela Bui, 14, of the younger Shearer. Bui, herself a skilled skater, now trains at Freestyle Level 3 under the tutelage of the senior Shearer. She will perform to "China Girl" and "Hand Jive" in Luverne on Saturday, and has nothing but praise for both of the Shearers.

"Kathy [Shearer] really knows how to work with me, and she helps me through each new move with a lot of patience," said Bui. "Katie [Shearer] is very graceful and has her whole heart into skating -- she isn't forced to be in it at all. She has a great attitude."

Throughout the winter skating season, Bui is joined on her bi-weekly treks to the Luverne ice arena by fellow Worthington skaters Emily Clark, Jessica Kullman, Samantha Palmer, Shelby Kingery, Dana Kingery and Rachel Jones.

"It's a big commitment throughout the year from the kids," confirmed Brian McCarthy, parent of Adrian skaters Brianna, 14, and Tommy, 9. Brianna, a ninth-year skater, and Tommy, now in his fifth year, have caught the skating bug in a big way. They've infected most of their family with it, too.


"We bought some ice time in Sioux Center last September, so they could get a jump on skating time, and they both skate in competitions," McCarthy said.

"If anybody had told me I'd be making props for figure skating shows 10 years ago, I would have said they were crazy," McCarthy said, laughing. "You can't believe the number of papier-mache figures I've made."

McCarthy and his wife, Joyce, both of whom were only pond skaters in their youth, are now heavily involved in the skating scene at the Blue Mound Ice Arena.

"Joyce started working as an instructor this year, and I put together the CDs for the show, as well as being the videographer," said McCarthy, whose day -- and sometimes night -- job is being a sergeant for the Nobles County Sheriff's Department.

Even the eldest McCarthy son, David, an Adrian High School senior and non-skater, gets into the act, having joined his siblings and father on a trip to the Twin Cities last weekend for a skating competition. David will assist his dad with videotaping this Saturday's shows.

Two other Adrian skaters, Jennifer Recker and Sydnie Weiss, will also appear in "The World on Ice."

The McCarthys are far from being the only parents supporting the ice show and its young stars.

"With the show coming up, everyone chips in and helps, with decorating, fund-raisers, costumes and other needs," McCarthy said. "A lot of parents really pitch in, and it's pretty neat to see the skating community come together to support this effort."


"We just couldn't do it if all the parents weren't committed to it, too."

Tilstra takes parental involvement one step further by having some fathers skate in the show.

"We've had a father/daughter skating number for several years," Tilstra said. "One of the dads actually choreographs it -- this year there will be 14 dads and daughters skating to 'The Road to Morocco.'"

"Some of the dads have been hockey players, and some haven't, but that's always a fun number, and the girls love to have their fathers out there with them."

Another annual highlight is what Tilstra calls the "hockey guy number," in which many local male hockey players skate with a group of upper-level female skaters.

"It's to 'Limbo Rock' this year -- that's a much more high-powered song than the one the dads use," Tilstra chuckled.

Bui is one female figure skater who is also experienced in hockey technique, having played on the Worthington girls' varsity hockey team throughout the winter while simultaneously honing her figure skating skills.

"I love skating and being on the ice," Bui said. "Skating has given me a lot mentally as well as physically, because I have to keep telling myself to have the courage to keep on going and not give up."


When this weekend's show is over, Bui will have to hang up her skates for the season. Although she plans to pick up a glove and head for the softball diamond soon, the chilly arenas won't be far from her mind.

"No question, skating is my favorite sport," she said.

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