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Posted on Thu, Dec 2, 2010 : 3:28 p.m.

Scene Around Town: Ann Arbor is home to annual synchronized skating event 'Porter Classic'

By Pat Kabat

Have you ever wondered as you travelled Oak Valley Drive on the first weekend in December, why so many buses were circulating around the Ann Arbor Ice Cube? They’re big charter buses with license plates from Pennsylvania, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Delaware, Wisconsin, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland and Illinois, and they just keep coming all weekend long!

These buses are transporting teams of figure skaters to Ann Arbor to compete in the Porter Classic, an annual competition for synchronized skating. The teams are comprised of eight to 20 young ladies, primarily in their teens, although they have Senior and Adult/Masters categories as well. The Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club is represented by the Hockettes, founded in 1956 by the late Dr. Richard Porter. The first synchronized skating team to be formed in the country, they have been hosting this prestigious competition since 1995; this year’s dates are Dec. 4 and 5.

The Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club has many other events at The Cube. In early November, they held the Midwestern Sectional Championships, a regional qualifying competition for the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating championships. Juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior and senior skaters competed in singles, pairs and dance events. March will bring their traditional annual Melody On Ice, featuring the Hockettes, Ice Dance Teams and more than 200 figure skaters showcasing their accomplishments for the year. In May, they host the Springtime Invitational, an annual competition of figure skaters from around the country and their Basic Skills and Showcase Competition is held in June.

The public is welcome, and if you happen to walk in to observe any of the competitive skating events, you’ll see, besides skaters milling around, practicing or competing, many various vendors, offering items from T-shirts to gloves, scarves and blankets. Crystal jeweler Terry Upham could accessorize a young girl’s costume or help a grandparent, like me, select a gift; I found, many years ago, that this was a great place to shop for Christmas gifts for my skating granddaughters!

At the Midwestern Sectional, I spoke to a 13-year-old girl and her male dance partner who had come from Skokie, Ill. They’d been competing since they were 7, going to practice sessions at 6:30 a.m. and travelling to competitions like this one, where they were about to go through their warm-up routine and then dance to the “James Bond Theme.” They didn’t know how long they would compete, probably into high school - a lot depended on their placement in this event and, hopefully, at the Nationals.

I also met a mother from Buffalo, N.Y. whose daughter has skated for 14 years and is now a college freshman in Rochester, N.Y. She’s a senior ladies’ competitor who travels to Michigan twice a month to train with her coach at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills. At one time, she and her mom shared a small apartment away from home for a year and a half so she could be near her coach.

Needless to say, these competitors and their families are extremely invested and possess a huge commitment and passion for their chosen sport. This is quite a leap from my experience with ice skating; I learned to skate in Windsor, pushing a kitchen chair around on our neighbor’s frozen backyard, and my children took a couple of years’ lessons as preschoolers at the U-M Sports Coliseum at Fifth and Hill.

But, what little girl hasn’t dreamed of being a skating star? Who hasn’t seen Stars on Ice, Skating With The Stars or the Olympic figure skating events? If you and your family enjoy watching skating, check out the year-round schedule of events at and take advantage of a wonderful entertainment opportunity around town!

If there’s anything you’ve “scene” around town and wondered about, let me know and I’ll try to check it out…

Pat Kabat is a longtime resident of Ann Arbor. Recently retired, she now enjoys more time with family and grandchildren. She also volunteers as a tutor with Washtenaw
Literacy and as an usher at U-M Productions and the Michigan Theater. Pat hopes to use her curiosity of scenes around town to investigate and share with the community.  Read previous Scene Around Town articles here.