Since Bakersfield does little to conjure up the cold, icy image of winter sports, you could be forgiven for not knowing that our town has a figure skating community. An upcoming event, though, is the perfect way to catch local talent in action.
The third annual Holiday Show on Ice is coming to the Rabobank Arena on Sunday. For its "Christmas Through the Years" theme, around 40 local skaters of all ages will take the ice, skating to songs by artists ranging from Brenda Lee to Ariana Grande and everything in between.
"We really want to put on something that's different," said Corrie Frias, a local figure skating coach and one of the creators of Bakersfield Figure Skating Club. "It's a little different and gives you that winter feeling."
Though the event is in its third year, it's the first time it's been put on by the newly official Bakersfield Figure Skating Club. The annual holiday show was previously organized by a group of local coaches, including Frias, before they decided to form a nonprofit to grow the figure skating community in town.
The skaters in the show range from age 4 to 40s or 50s, Frias said, and some compete while others just skate recreationally. Most of the skaters are girls and women but there are a few guys, too, she said. They also might be joined by young skaters of another kind.
"Sometimes we pull in some hockey players," said Frias, who also coaches hockey. "They're very excited because they get to dress up."
Last year's theme was "The Polar Express," while the first year the coaches were focused more on pulling the show together than having a theme.
"The theme was kind of, 'we're new at this and trying our best,'" Frias said with a laugh.
This year's show is bigger than the last, a trend Frias hopes will continue with each annual show. About 350 people attended last year's event, and Frias is hoping to raise that number to 400 this year. Attendance isn't the only way the show is expanding.
"We have an amazing finale production in the works," she said. With 39 skaters on the ice at once, "it's a massive production. It's kind of a new take on 'The Nutcracker.'"
The event, put on with help from local sponsors, will benefit Mutts and Runts Rescue, a local dog rescue organization.
"We want the skaters to feel like they are giving back," Frias said.
The start of Bakersfield Figure Skating Club in October of this year means a lot more than an official name putting on the annual holiday show.
Because figure skaters have to represent a club in order to compete at any level, local skaters would have to compete representing another city's club even if they trained with coaches here in town.
"If you want to compete you have to represent a club," she said. "Now having a club allows us (to represent Bakersfield)."
Frias is one of three coaches through the club; the other two are Kalina Downs and Sarajoy Cloud. There's no rivalry between the three coaches, as they have all been friends for years.
The club currently has around 40 students as members, plus parents. Frias said they hope to have at least 60 by the middle of next year. The board is made up of parents, and a junior board is made up of students.
"It's their club, not our (the coaches') club," Frias said of the skaters.
Coaches can now do clinics and classes through the club instead of on their own, and they are looking for ways to make the sport more accessible to those who might not have started on the ice shortly after learning how to walk.
Frias said they would like to have sessions for adults who are just looking for a new way to exercise, adding that ice skating has the added bonus of being at a cold rink and, as a result, much less sweaty than other workouts.
Other programs might include a special needs class or Mommy & Me sessions.
As with the holiday show, the club will also give back to the community, whether it's pairing with other nonprofits to help raise funds or offering financial help to skaters who need it.
"With the club, we can help fill in those gaps," Frias said. "We can bring in other people who never had access before."
The club also takes a solo (and often very competitive) sport and gives it a little more community spirit.
"We've seen a huge growth of girls who never talked to each other before now becoming best friends," Frias said. "The club has been a great way to bring them all together and build those lifelong friendships."