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Oak Harbor barn got rolling 60 years ago

Folks have been skating in the Roller Barn for 60 years. An anniversary celebration takes place June 19. - Photo courtesy of the Boys and Girls Club of Oak Harbor
Folks have been skating in the Roller Barn for 60 years. An anniversary celebration takes place June 19.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of the Boys and Girls Club of Oak Harbor

A celebration this weekend will hark back to the early days of Oak Harbor’s famous roller rink.

The Boys and Girls Club of Oak Harbor is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the roller rink inside the landmark Roller Barn on Barron Drive Saturday, June 19, with an open house, open skate and sock hop.

“We’re trying to get people who used to skate here to come back,” said Peg Fenstermaker, executive director for the Boys and Girls Club of Oak Harbor.

The 98-year-old barn, the current home of the Boys and Girls Club, was originally a dairy barn. In June of 1950, Soren Rasmussen and Darrell Ellis transformed the barn into a roller rink, and it’s been a popular destination for youth ever since.

Boys and Girls Club leaders have a day full of events planned to mark the anniversary. The open house goes from noon to 2 p.m. and is followed by an open skate from 2 to 5 p.m. After that, the roller rink will transform into a 50s-era sock hop complete with a DJ. Women are encouraged to wear poodle skirts and men are urged to wear leather jackets. Tickets for the sock hop are $10 and skate rental is $2.

Several contests — hula hooping, bubble gum blowing, yo-yoing and Elvis impersonating — will take place throughout the day.

The Roller Barn has been a focal point for Oak Harbor youth for years. In 1997, the Partnership with Youth acquired the building as a headquarters for its activities. Then in 2003, the Partnership with Youth transformed into the Boys and Girls Club, which it remains today. The Roller Barn also hosts open skate several times throughout the week.

Currently, the Boys and Girls Club boasts nearly 200 members ages 5 to 18. On any given day, approximately 50 of them stop by during the week to participate in Club activities.

The youth organization holds events about once a quarter to raise money to fund its $150,000-a-year budget. The fundraisers account for 85 to 90 percent of the Boys and Girls Club budget. Some of the more popular events the club organizes for the community include the haunted house, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in October; the Bid for Kids auction in March; and the Coppacabarna, which is a roaring-20s-style event that takes place in September.

In learning about the Roller Barn and discovering its pending anniversary, Fenstermaker said the open house and sock hop seemed to be a natural way to celebrate the date.

“It’s kind of a thank-you to the community,” Fenstermaker said.

In two years, there will be another watershed date for the historic Oak Harbor barn. That’s when the actual building will mark its centennial, and a huge party will surely take place then as well.

“We’re hopeful we will have a big 100-year celebration,” Fenstermaker said.

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