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DECATUR — Back when John F. Kennedy was president, Decatur took its ice skating outside.
The Fairview Park ice rink, which consisted of flooding the floor under the main pavilion, was a cool location that pulled in big crowds after it opened in 1962.
With a toasty outdoor fireplace to get warmed up after Jack Frost had a go nipping at your toes, plus food vendors and bench seating for spectators, a fun time was had by all. Parents could rest assured, because a plunge through the ice meant kids dropping a few inches, not that it ever happened.
Decatur Park District records show that in the peak skating winter of 1971-72, more than 45,000 skaters from raw novices to the gliding self-assured, hit the ice.
But even in the Garden of Eden there was a serpent, and the arrival of indoor skating with the new Decatur Civic Center put a serious crack in the Fairview Park rink’s participant numbers.
A Herald & Review story from August 1981 said the frosty writing was soon visible on the wall: the winter of 1979-80 had seen only 8,828 skaters, the lowest attendance since the rink had opened. The facility wasn’t covering its costs and the Park District reported it lost $9,416. The park district pulled the plug on the Fairview Rink in the winter of 1982.
Golden frozen nostalgia runs deep, however, and some of the more seasoned among our readership can still recall the simple thrills of gliding across a vast expanse of ice. One reporter had described the Fairview rink’s atmosphere as a heady “combination of a carnival and a picnic.”