Ice rink brings Michigan community together during bleak winter


When that inner voice spoke to Scott Chittle and told him to “build it,” the Manton, Michigan resident felt compelled to listen. When the pandemic forced the closures, Chittle decided Manton needed an outdoor rink more than anything.

It doesn’t matter that his own kids haven’t even skated – or that hardly any kid in town has skated. But he felt the community needed a safe place to come together whether they realized it or not.

When people weren’t flocking to his house, Chittle went door to door to force them to come.

“I was upset,” he said. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me ?! Tell your kid to go out and ice skate!'”

It’s not really “if you build it, they’ll come.” Rather, if you build it and go harass some families, they will come.

“That’s true too, because they’re coming, for sure,” Chittle said with a laugh.

They are coming – en masse.

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A northern Michigan dad built an ice rink in his backyard from scratch to give the kids in his small town some fun and magic during this bleak winter.

Handout / Derek Sutton


Now, Chittle’s Side Yard is the place to be in Manton. Dark winter is now bursting with joy.

“None of these kids have electronics in their hands. It’s amazing!” said a parent.

The parents all agree. They helped Chittle buy enough used skates for everyone and collected all the hockey sticks they could find. There is a hot fire, hot chocolate and hot dogs.

When Chittle’s inner voice told him to build this rink, he had no idea what he was really creating. For those who come, the sounds, smells and smiles of this winter will be forever – the kind of kids they need to cherish their childhood.

“We all know you have to provide for your kids, but somehow you have to give them a little magic every now and then,” Chittle said. “Just give a kid some magic. It doesn’t get better than this.”

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A northern Michigan dad built an ice rink in his backyard from scratch to give kids in his small town some fun and magic during the pandemic.

Handout / Darick Osée



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