Skate Night Seeks New 'Rinkleader'


Ted Olinger, KP News

Skaters warm up on the classic wood floor. Photo: David Zeigler, KP News

The Miller family has run the beloved KP youth activity for two decades.

After more than 20 years on the job, Kip Miller is resigning his post as manager of Skate Night at the KP Civic Center. His wife, Jennifer, the kitchen manager, and their son, Bryce, a senior at Peninsula High School and the DJ, will be departing as well after the final session before summer break, June 14. 

“When our daughter Brianna was a 1-year-old, in 1997, we got invited to volunteer and then eventually took over the program,” Miller said. “When we first started it was a boom box on a table on the stage.” 

Skating came to the civic center in the fall of 1976. Within a few months, it was so popular people had to pay 25 cents just to watch from the balcony (See “Rolling Right Along,” Key Peninsula Newsletter, February 1977.)

“We started coming in 1999,” said Claudia Jones, a civic center board member. “We brought our kids off Herron Island.” She and husband Bill now volunteer and bring their grandson, Andrew, age 5.

Geared for elementary through middle school-aged children, Skate Night happens Friday nights during the school year. It’s an evening of music, games and roller skating from 6 to 9 p.m., sometimes followed by dodgeball until 10:30 p.m. The $5 admission includes skate rental and games. Once children are in the building they cannot leave without a parent or guardian.

“We probably get about 150 or 160 kids on an average Friday night, and sometimes more during dodgeball,” Miller said. “Some of the kids don’t even like to skate, they just come hang out with their friends, play games, and listen to music.”

Evergreen first-grader Ean Fritz is a Skate Night regular. “I don’t skate but it’s fun to go and watch and be with my friends and eat food,” he said.

“The kitchen serves everything from burgers to chili fries and smoothies and they can sit at tables and socialize in the Whitmore Room. It’s a good, safe place to learn how to do that,” Jones said. “And I’m always surprised at how many parents stay; some go into a corner and get on their computer and some just get out there and socialize with the other parents.”

Ten to 15 high school students volunteer each week to get credit for their community service requirement, helping in the skate room or kitchen, monitoring the kids and assisting with parties. They also keep the evening fun. “There’s always several games throughout the night,” Miller said. “Alligator Tag is probably the favorite that’s been going on the longest.”

“Kip created a deep bench of volunteers and brought Skate Night to a new level,” said James Allyn, the civic center caretaker. “He raffled off bikes and giant teddy bears and other prizes donated by local businesses and clubs. That didn’t cost them much, but getting something like a free bike makes a huge impact on a kid. Just watching that made you want to go.” 

Miller took a break from Skate Night 10 years ago but was asked by the board to return when the program faltered. But in June, Miller will be taking over the business where he has been employed full-time. “Our kids are grown now, they’ve moved on, and it’s my time to move on,” he said.

“Some new Vaughn parents have expressed concern that Skate Night may come to an end without the Millers. I said ‘Step up. You guys are all young, you can do this,’ ” Jones said.

“We want to hire someone ASAP,” said board member Peggy Gablehouse, who is responsible for human resources at the civic center. “We would like to find someone who can train with the Millers, so they can see how it’s done.”

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Editor’s note: The Key Peninsula News is published by the KPCCA. The KP News retains editorial and financial independence from its parent organization.