BOWLING GREEN Scott Hamilton packs em in when he makes public appearances, but when he was learning to skate, he had a knack for clearing the place.
One by one, the other skaters silently left the ice. They would go to the hockey box and sit and watch him because he was doing everything so perfectly, recalled Marianne Mazur-Stewart of Waterville as she laced her skates at the Bowling Green State University Ice Arena, where she is a coach.
In 1968, when Marianne was 15 years old, she was a boarder with the Hamilton family in Bowling Green and was in charge of looking after young Scott, who was six years younger, while they were at the arena for lessons.
At the time, the BGSU arena was brand spanking new with three separate ice surfaces better than anything in the Cleveland area where Marianne lived. The arena also had a bank of new-fangled equipment that presto, chango dispensed food when you put coins in a slot. It intrigued Scottie, as she still calls him. I had to make sure he didn t play with the vending machines.
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Warm memories of Mr. Hamilton, a Bowling Green native, are rising like steam on cups of hot chocolate as this Wood County city prepares for a three-day Winterfest to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Scott s gold-medal win in figure skating in the 1984 Olympics.
Mr. Hamilton will bring his wife, Tracie, their two children, and his in-laws to the Winterfest next weekend. During the visit, his family will tour the town. He will point out where he lived and where he went to school. They will visit where his mother and father are laid to rest.
I will take them out to the cemetery to meet my par-ents, Mr. Hamilton said in a telephone interview.
Born in Toledo, Scott was adopted by two university faculty members, Ernest and Dorothy Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton died in 1994; Mrs. Hamilton passed away in 1977.
Winterfest, he said, will be just a wonderful celebration, commemorating the 25th anniversary of his most famous victory on ice.
A philanthropist, writer, and cancer survivor today, Scott Hamilton takes his victory lap upon winning Olympic gold in 1984.
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He could have just taken his wife out to dinner but instead suggested that a party, a big party, perhaps was in order, not only to celebrate the anniversary but to bring attention to a BGSU program near and dear to him.
An Evening with Scott Hamilton at the university s Lenhart Grand Ballroom on Saturday night will be the Winterfest s spotlight event, featuring Mr. Hamilton and Peter and Kitty Carruthers, U.S. figure skating silver medalists in the 1984 Olympics. Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Carruthers will be guest speakers during the fund-raising event with proceeds benefiting BGSU s Dallas-Hamilton Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. In 2004, Mr. Hamilton and Bill Dallas, a BGSU alumnus and business owner, each donated $1.5 million to fund the center.
I am excited to bring my family for the first time to Bowling Green, said Mr. Hamilton, who lives in Nashville. In addition to attending the gala, he will participate in Winterfest activities on Feb. 22. Details still were being worked out.
Mr. Hamilton said he s always asked about his favorite city in the world. It s not about the geography or the topography or the weather. It s about the people who live there, he said.
A natural on ice
He was living on State Street on the west side of Bowling Green when he was introduced to skating on a neighbor s frozen driveway. He was 4 years old. Wearing skates with double runners (think training wheels), he toppled backward, whacked his head, and vowed never to skate again.
But a few years later, in 1967, the BGSU arena opened its doors, and with it, the opportunity came for Scott, who was a sickly child, to try his hand, or his feet rather, at something he could do with others his age, an activity he could pursue at his own pace.
Dick Powers of Bowling Green remembers the first time that Scott s silver skates glided over the BGSU arena ice.
I was standing right over there, said Mr. Powers, gesturing toward the front of the arena. He went out there, and he took to the ice like a duck to water.
Stage manager many years for the Ice Horizons shows at the ice arena, Mr. Powers said he met Mr. Hamilton lots of times. He was a country boy to start, but he became, how would you say? He became more worldly.
Mr. Powers, who retired in 1993 as BGSU s director of purchasing, stays involved with the ice arena, such as running the scoreboard for hockey games.
Mr. Hamilton more than a dozen times was guest skater in Ice Horizons productions. At one time, Ice Horizons was the top-rated amateur ice show in the country, Mr. Powers said.
There will be a show this year, a pared-down version of the extravaganzas presented when more than 100 skaters, and in some years nearly 200, performed. Just 41 skaters signed up for the 2009 show.
Overall at the ice arena, the number of skaters has declined, apparently a sign of the economic times, said Laura Dunn, assistant director of the ice arena.
But next weekend, the ice arena likely will be crowded with people during Winterfest, which will pay homage to the city s skating heritage.
Winterfest could become an annual event in Bowling Green, said Wendy Stram, executive director of the Bowling Green Convention & Visitors Bureau, who said she would put Scott Hamilton in the favorite-son category. He s very good about attending events at BGSU. He s generous with his time.
A cool event
Organizers have lined up an avalanche of activities: a winter movie marathon, live entertainment, a chili cookoff, a young people s concert, a frostbite fun run, auctions, family games, teen dance, hockey game, adult mixer, pancake breakfast, open skating, restaurant specials, and citywide price-freeze sales at local businesses.
About 30 ice sculptures, lighted to sparkle at night, will be on display in the city where Christmas lights will add to the festive atmosphere, Mrs. Stram said.
The theme is The Coolest Event of the Year, and activities begin Friday and run through Feb. 22 in downtown Bowling Green, at City Park, and at BGSU.
We re stuck in the house this time of the year. I think it s going to be fun to be outdoors, said Mrs. Stram, who added that organizers are pretty excited Mr. Hamilton will be in town for the event.
He s a busy guy, she said in one of the biggest understatements since Noah said it looks like rain.
Mr. Hamilton, who was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and is a member of the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame, is a commentator, speaker, philanthropist, cancer survivor, and best-selling author. Last month his most recent inspirational book was published, The Great Eight: How to Be Happy (Even When You Have Every Reason to Be Miserable).
Not bad, not bad at all for a boy who stopped growing when he was 2 years old. His mysterious, growth-stunting illness disappeared and he began growing again a year after he started to take formal skating lessons and joined a hockey team.
Success on skates
Banners in the ice arena display names of other skaters with ties to Bowling Green who have mined Olympic gold, including Mark Wells and Ken Morrow, members of the 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey team.
There is plenty of room on the arena wall for a banner for Alissa Czisny, 21, a Bowling Green native who took lessons at the ice arena here. In late January, she won the U.S. women s championship in Cleveland, qualifying her for the world championships in March.
Mr. Hamilton gives credit to the quality of the BGSU Ice Arena as well as the quality of the community for assisting in the success of local skaters.
Bowling Green, he said, is a really good place to grow up, and provides young people with a solid foundation. Wherever you start, that is your perspective, your view, he said, pointing out you mind your P s and Q s when you grow up in a small community where there are more friendly hellos than privacy hedgerows.
An inspirational figure
Mr. Hamilton, who stopped performing on the ice about five years ago, focuses his career now on sharing his life experiences, such as through public speaking and through writing.
Maddie Keating, 10, of Sylvania, who won her first gold medal in January during a competition in Findlay, said Scott is pretty special.
I think he s really neat and it s so neat he won all that he did. He s a big inspiration to skating, she said before gliding off for a lesson with Shelly Bressler of Bowling Green, former coach for Ms. Czisny.
Mr. Hamilton in 2003 was the guest skater in the Ice Horizons show, Mrs. Bressler said, and he brought the house down.
She met up with Mr. Hamilton in Cleveland, where he provided commentary for NBC during the championship won by Ms. Czisny.
And yes, he s 50 years old. And yes, it s been 25 years since Sarajevo and his gold-medal win. But his star status is still sky high.
I hugged him at nationals two weeks ago, Mrs. Bressler said. Teasing, and with obvious admiration for the famous skater, she added, I haven t showered since.
Contact Janet Romaker at:firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6006.
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