FORT WAYNE – As a child with seven siblings, Richard Stevenson was happy when he and his brothers had one present under the tree during the holidays.
On Saturday, the Wayne Township trustee threw a community skating party in the hopes of making some kids holidays a little brighter.
The party was a hit as people formed a line more than 30 minutes before the event began at 5:30 p.m. By 6 p.m., Fort Wayne police officers were turning cars away from the parking lot of Roller Dome South at 4540 Bluffton Road because the lot was too full.
Officers estimated that about 2,000 people were inside or waiting in line to get in about 6 p.m., but the estimate was likely too low with the huge crowd and the number of small children in line.
Stevenson started off the night with a short but enthusiastic speech about the night being for the community.
This is a day just for you. Happy December 15! he told the crowd.
Attendees enjoyed free skating, free food and prizes all night long. The township office was giving away about 20 bicycles. The bikes, prizes and food were all donated, Stevenson said.
None of this is paid for with taxpayer dollars, Stephenson said. This is possible because of the community. Fort Wayne is so great at sharing.
Sharon Tucker, who lost a bid for a seat on the Allen County Council in November, attended the event with her daughter and donated money for a bike that was being given away.
She said the crowd that was lined up outside the rink almost made her turn around, but she was impressed with the attendance.
Its always good to see (trustees) support the community, she said.
Tucker said she would probably don a pair of skates for a few laps before the night was over.
The event also featured live music from local acts, including the Little Witnesses choir from Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church.
Alicia Carter, a member of the church, brought her three kids and other children from the church for the event. She said it was nice to see people coming together for a family event, especially in light of Fridays school shooting in Connecticut that left 28 people dead, including 20 children.
I think its awesome when the community reaches out to its children, Carter said.