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Portland’s Skate-The-Lake Bigger Than Ever

By MaggieM, Host of WHERE IN the wedge IS MAGGIE M?

“I love to watch people enjoying the event,” glows Portland Outdoors President, John Bongers. How he finds the time to oversee the 2017 Skate The Lake, Portland, beats me. Bongers is a sophisticated cattle farmer who rises at 4:30 am.

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L-R John Bongers, Catherine from Kitchener, Marco Smits (Founder) and Rosie from Kitchener, test the oval last week. PHOTO by Brent Van Hooft.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-10-06-36-pmPortland is a quaint village and top destination for boaters on the Rideau during warmer months; but, residents keep it bustling with tourists through the winter. The village’s year-round hospitality is remarkable in a vacation region that quiets down each winter. Skate The Lake is an event that draws competitive skaters from long distances; in fact, it has been Host to serious competitions. Portland is a place to watch.

The rinks do not vanish at event close. People travel a long way to skate on what is presumed Canada’s second largest oval rink; the biggest is in Edmonton. All rinks are maintained including the oval, hockey and kids rinks, accessible to the public for months.

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Imagine Skate The Lake, Portland, from the air with Kouri Kopters PHOTO by Kouri Kopters

Skate The Lake is blasting-off again this January 28-29, 2017, with a few new hooks sure to draw yet bigger crowds. Last year, ballooning made a splash.

This year, Kouri Kopters, are offering  scenic helicopter flights over the event and area.

On Saturday night, The Opinicon Lodge is serving a Canada 150 themed dinner at the Portland Hall. It is expected to be ‘sesqui-spectacular’. Senior Volunteer, Ken Maxwell, waxed about the menu to this writer, eliciting a Pavlovian drooling response. It is difficult to hear people speak eloquently about food while facing a PB and J.

If you like a rush, a dare, Portland is the place to be. Speed skaters are impressive to watch when they blow by you at 30kms to 60kms. Their skates are 50% longer and fasten at the toes which explains the clicking sound Rick Mercer quips about in the video below. All types of skates can be worn and everyone can participate. If all you have are boots, you can curl.

The many recreational and competitive sports for men, women and children include:

  • Two marathon skating events of 25 and 50 kilometers. All types of skates are welcome in all races.
  • The 10K and 25K take place on Saturday morning, followed by the very popular Kids 5K (12and under), 5x1K relay race where teams that enter are encouraged to dress up.
  • On Sunday, the regular 5K & 50K races will take place.
  • Curling
  • A rink for kids skating
  • A hockey rink
  • A demonstration of Ice Stock by the Kingston and Area Ice Stock Club
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Fireworks at Skate The Lake, Portland

More grist for the mill:

  • On Saturday evening at dusk there will be fireworks over the lake.
  • Music, bon fires, and food all day including homemade chili and hot chocolate. Skate Tails and the famous Dutch pea soup, “Snert” are favorites.
  • Horse drawn sleigh rides
  • Celebrity appearance: Olympian Mike Brown of Perth, who competed for Canada in swimming in the 2004 and 2008 Games

A CHEATER IN OUR MIDST!

Rick Mercer visited Skate The Lake a few years ago in 2009. Few test their limits as Mercer does. Try not to split your aerodynamic skate gear while watching! Suffice it to say, “he found a way to speed ahead.”

For registration go to http://www.skatethelakeportland.com/registration-2017

NOTE: Portland Outdoors is a not-for-profit group that puts on the annual event which was previously known as the International Big Rideau Lake Speed Skating Marathon.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Portland is located 40 minutes north of Kingston and 100 kilometres south of Ottawa. Highway 15 runs right through it.

PORTLAND SKATE THE LAKE CLAIMS-TO-FAME:

* Jordan Belchos, currently on Team Canada long-track speed-skating World Cup team, skated a memorable race in Portland at the North American Marathon Skating

* Championships in 2006 and Canadian Olympic road bicycle racer Denise Ramsden
skated in Portland early on in her career

* Skate the Lake is part of the Marathon Skating International points series

* Last year, Guylaine Larouche of Orford, Quebec, made history at Skate the Lake by becoming the first women to win one of the marathons distances overall, the 50km.

* The North American Marathon Speed Skating Championships were held there in 2006 and 2014

GALLERY SHOTS:

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The oval at Skate The Lake, Portland, as seen from the sky. One of the largest in Canada.

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L – R : John Bongers, two visitors from Kitchener, Marco Smiths, Founder, Skate The Lake, Portland, Ontario