Skating Magic at Marina
Some people look at the winter weather and think it is miserable. Danny Westfall of New Martinsville sees something different, something magical.
Yet, the real magic comes when Westfall makes other people see the potential too. He doesn’t have a magic wand, just an unwavering desire to see people have fun, smile, and make memories.
This is exactly what he is doing, with the help of the community, at the New Martinsville Marina. For the third year “Mr. Danny,” as the kids call him from his school bus driving days, has made frozen water at the park a winter wonderland. The first year some water left behind from flooding naturally created the ice rink, but the past two years Westfall has worked to dam and flood a larger area south of Harlan Drive so it will freeze and create a community ice rink.
He brings his trailer full of ice skates – many now purchased and maintained by donations from individuals who just want to see the fun continue – and sets up shop. Westfall outfits anyone who comes and wants to take a turn on the ice. Although, during particularly busy times, there can be a bit of a wait for the right size to become available.
“So many people do it on a whim,” noted Westfall. “One guy said they drove by and the kids said, ‘They’re skating! They’re skating!’ So they stopped. Of course they weren’t dressed for it, but we usually have stuff we can put on them.”
Not only does Westfall provide skates, but he usually has a stock of snow bibs, hats, gloves, tall socks, and blankets for those who aren’t prepared for the cold.
And you can’t forget the hot chocolate.
“I’m so happy he shares his skates and hot chocolate with everyone!” Mallory McDiffitt, a third-grader at New Martinsville School, said. “Mr. Danny is awesome! He is very generous with his time to make sure everyone is smiling and having fun! I never knew how to ice skate until I came here and tried it, now I love it thanks to Mr. Danny.”
“It is so nice because people can just stop and try it out,” noted Westfall. “There is no investment and they don’t have to drive to Wheeling. So many people say it is much better here rather than going around in a circle.”
Not only does the natural environment create different skating areas between trees and even a picnic table, but Westfall surrounded one area with plastic corrugated pipe so the hockey pucks don’t fly out of their new-this-year dedicated rink. Westfall has some hockey supplies, but that activity is also supported by some local hockey enthusiasts.
In fact, all of the activity has been supported in many ways by many people. Some bring more hot chocolate, socks, unused skates, and sleds. And others give cash. “We really don’t need it,” said Westfall. “That’s not what we’re about, but they’re just so happy (that they want to support it).” He uses the money to buy more skates and to sharpen those that have become dulled from use.
Westfall is quick though to give special thanks to Bridgeport Equipment and Tool for donating the use of a pump to flood the area and the light plant to keep it illuminated for skating after dark. Also, Litman Enterprises donated the use of a handicapped-accessible porta john at the site. “Those are the two major corporate ones that have committed their time and resources,” noted Westfall. “They certainly have enhanced our ability to be there.”
He also thanks the City of New Martinsville for not putting a stop to the whole operation. It is not a city-sponsored activity, but it is on city park property.
“What Danny has done is help the people of New Martinsville see the magic of what happens when we come together as a community,” said Robby Parsons, a local photographer who has enjoyed documenting the phenomenon. “The ice rink is a very special place because it is organized and enjoyed organically. There are no financial motivations. The only motivation is putting smiles on residents’ faces. That is an absolutely beautiful thing.”
This last round of skating has had fewer partakers because the temperatures have been so cold, but there are still many people stopping to skate a while. On Sunday, Westfall knows of one family that came down from Moundsville between their son’s basketball games there because they had been wanting to come take part in the skating.
Also on Sunday a family from Blacksville returned after they had been skating at the marina last year. They have a family tradition of picking a weekend and don’t tell the kids where they are going for the day. The New Martinsville Marina was their destination this past weekend.
“It sparks such amazing reactions from the kids,” said Westfall. “They are so excited and it’s like the best thing they have ever done in their whole life. But they will have these memories their whole life. And that’s the key.”
The nearby sledding hill is an added bonus. Westfall said he probably put skates on the same kids three times in one day because they went back and forth to the sledding hill. That is not a bother to him either. He’s just happy the kids are having fun.
“I get emotional every time I think about it because it is just so awesome to watch all those people out there creating their own fun,” said Westfall.
To keep up with when the ice is ready for skating and when Westfall will be there with his skates, “Like” New Martinsville Marina Community Ice Rink on Facebook.
Many people just like to visit the Facebook page to see the videos and photographs. One of those is Vicki Reed, a former resident of New Martinsville. “I have known Danny Westfall for over 65 years. … He has always put the needs of others and their concerns ahead of his own. He has always been a ‘natural leader,’ with the gift of sharing his patience, time, talents and energy with others. Some of the residents are calling him the ‘Pied Piper’ of New Martinsville. This project has been one that he has been able to, without even asking, motivate others to help the joy continue in our community. They will never forget their experience.”