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IT'S ALMOST TIME FOR THE GREAT SKATE WINTERFEST!

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – What do Grand Rapids Griffins players, sled dogs, snowboarders, ice sculptors, zoo animals, figure skaters, horse-drawn carriages, winter sport athletes, museums, libraries, and local celebrities have in common? They’ll all be part of the 2011 Great Skate Winterfest, which will run for 34 consecutive hours on Saturday, Jan. 22 and Sunday, Jan. 23 at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids.

Everyone is invited to join this celebration of winter in our city and help the Griffins Youth Foundation provide opportunities for its 300 kids – many of whom are underprivileged, underserved or have other special needs – to participate in the great sport of hockey at no cost.

The fun begins at noon on Jan. 22 with the third-annual Winterfest, a day full of winter-inspired events, sports demonstrations and family activities, and concludes with the ninth-annual Great Skate, a 24-hour skating marathon with Griffins players that runs from 10 p.m. on Jan. 22 until 10 p.m. on Jan. 23. Admission to the Great Skate Winterfest is free, although donations are encouraged and certain activity fees apply.

Highlights of the Winterfest include public ice skating; winter sports demonstrations at the top of each hour; a family activity tent featuring the Grand Rapids Art Museum and Grand Rapids Public Library; dog sled presentations; animals from the John Ball Zoo; horse-drawn carriage rides; and an ice sculpture demonstration by the renowned Ice Gurus.

New this year, Grand Rapids-based Marhar Snowboards will offer snowboarding demonstrations from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday. The public is invited to bring their boards and helmets and join in the fun (parent/guardian consent needed for minors).

The Great Skate will commence at 10 p.m. Saturday as the Griffins’ home game against Chicago wraps up a few blocks away. Griff will take the event’s opening shift and every Griffins player and coach will follow for an hour each, skating with fans and local media personalities around the clock until 10 p.m. Sunday. The lineup of Griffins skaters can be found at griffinshockey.com/greatskate.

Through that web site, fans can also raise money for the Griffins Youth Foundation by sponsoring their favorite Griffin or collecting pledges for their own participation in the Great Skate. Attendees will also have the chance to participate in silent auctions, and those who choose to make a donation to provide ice time for a foundation player (10 minutes for every dollar donated) will have the opportunity to write their names on skate-themed placards that will be displayed on the walls of the Rosa Parks Circle skate rental shelter during the event.

The Great Skate Winterfest is presented by the Griffins, Comcast and the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation. Other sponsors include Huntington, Centennial Securities, Executive Coach Service, FastSigns, Lighthouse Insurance Group, Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan, Dean Foods, the Downtown Alliance, Founders Bank & Trust, The Gilmore Collection, and J. Albert Design.

Established in 1995, the Griffins Youth Foundation promotes academic excellence, community involvement and healthy lifestyles among the youth of West Michigan, enhancing their lives through hockey and ice-related sports. The foundation’s programs include hockey for first through ninth graders and a girls-only division, as well as the Grand Rapids Sled Wings sled hockey team for physically challenged kids and teens.

For more information about the foundation, visit griffinskids.org.


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