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GREAT SKATE WINTERFEST RETURNS JAN. 21-22!

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Griffins players, sled dogs, snowboarders, ice sculptors, zoo animals, figure skaters, horse-drawn carriages, winter sport athletes, museums, libraries and local celebrities will all be part of the 2012 Great Skate Winterfest, which will run for 34 consecutive hours on Saturday, Jan. 21 and Sunday, Jan. 22 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 more than 300 kids – many of whom are underprivileged, underserved, physically challenged or have other special needs – to participate in the great sport of hockey at no cost.

The fun begins at noon on Jan. 21 with the fourth annual Winterfest, a day full of winter-inspired events, sports demonstrations and family activities, and concludes with the 10th annual Great Skate, a 24-hour skating marathon with Griffins players that runs from 10 p.m. on Jan. 21 until 10 p.m. on Jan. 22. Admission to the Great Skate Winterfest is free, although donations are encouraged and certain activity fees apply. 

Grand Rapids-based Marhar Snowboards will construct a snowboarding rail that will be open to the public from noon-6 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. (Participants must bring their own board and helmet, and parent/guardian consent is needed for minors.) Throughout Saturday afternoon, participants can also register to take part in a “Rail Jam” competition that will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, leading into the finals at 9 p.m. The competition will be judged by Winter X Games rider Ryan Paul and other industry pros.

Also new to the Great Skate Winterfest, O.C.M. Mushing of Mancelona, Mich., will offer dog sled rides and presentations on an alternating basis from noon-6 p.m. on Saturday. The dogs will run a 600-foot, out-and-back course on Louis Street, immediately south of Rosa Parks Circle, at a cost of just $5 per person, giving attendees the unique experience of a dog sled ride in downtown Grand Rapids.

Other highlights of the Winterfest include public ice skating; winter sports demonstrations at the top of each hour by organizations such as the Grand Rapids Sled Wings, the Grand Valley State University Synchronized Skating Club and the Greater Grand Rapids Figure Skating Club; a family activity tent featuring the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Grand Rapids Public Library, Greater Grand Rapids Safe Kids and caricature artist David Wodarek; animals from the John Ball Zoo; horse-drawn carriage rides by Classic Carriage; and an ice sculpture demonstration by the renowned Ice Gurus. Several of the events recur Sunday afternoon during the Great Skate, and times vary. Please visit griffinshockey.com/greatskate for complete details.

All activities are free, with the exception of a $1 skating fee from noon until 10 p.m. on Saturday (skating is free during the 24-hour Great Skate) and $5-per-person fees for the dog sled rides, horse-drawn carriage rides and caricatures. 

The Great Skate will commence at 10 p.m. Saturday, after the Griffins’ home game against Rochester has wrapped up a few blocks away at Van Andel Arena. Head coach Curt Fraser and 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 help 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 an on-site raffle for an array of items – including an overnight stay at the Amway Grand Plaza and a Pavel Datsyuk-autographed jersey – while 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, Xfinity and the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation. Other sponsors include Centennial Securities, Executive Coach Service, FastSigns, Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan, Dean Foods, the Downtown Alliance, 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 currently 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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