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Ice show history: A cool look at a seldom-seen, 26,000-piece collection

Courtesy of IceStage Archive
Collector Roy Blakey and his niece, filmmaker Keri Pickett, at the IceStage Archive

A local collector is offering a rare opportunity to view thousands of treasures from nearly a century of ice show history.

Roy Blakey, a former ice show skater, has collected more than 26,000 pieces of memorabilia: skates, costumes, programs, toys, posters and more. The IceStage Archive in downtown Minneapolis catalogues the rich history of professional skating shows, including Minnesota-based Shipstads & Johnson Ice Follies and the traveling shows featuring Norwegian ice queen Sonja Henie.

Blakey’s niece, Keri Pickett, turned her uncle’s obsession into a documentary, “The Fabulous Ice Age.” The film, released last year, has been featured in numerous regional film festivals and had a showing at New York’s Lincoln Center. It features rare footage and archival material, along with interviews with skating legends Henie, Dick Button, Nancy Kerrigan, Scott Hamilton, Robin Cousins and others.

Now, to mark the release of “The Fabulous Ice Age” on DVD, the IceStage Archive is being opened to the public this week.

Minnesota plays a leading role in the history of ice shows. Roy and Eddie Shipstad, and their partner Oscar Johnson, got their start doing comedy skating routines at hockey games. In the 1930s, the trio of friends from St. Paul created the Ice Follies. Other ice shows quickly sprang up to capitalize on the success of the Ice Follies; one of the most successful was Holiday on Ice, produced for decades by Minneapolis sports executive Morris Chalfen.

In the late '70s, the Walt Disney organization bought the two Minnesota-based shows and combined them into what became Disney on Ice, today’s leading ice skating extravaganza.

The IceStage Archive is currently looking for a new location, but hasn’t found one, according to a marketing representative. The archive collection is also being appraised by “Antiques Roadshow” expert Leila Dunbar, but the final valuation isn’t yet complete.

IceStage Archive Opening

Where: 413 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
When: Thursday, June 19: 5-8 p.m.
               Friday, June 20: 11 am. to 7 p.m.
               Saturday, June 21: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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