Ice-skating lessons at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink

By Angela Gagnon | Staff Writer

SKATE003The extraordinary outdoor ice-skating venues that offer New Eastsiders a festive way to keep active during the cold winter months are also equipped to help beginners stay upright on the slick, frozen ice. Millennium Park’s McCormick Tribune Ice Rink offers free lessons for hockey and figure skating on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout the winter.

Funded by a grant from McDonald’s Active Lifestyles Endowment and managed by the Millennium Park Foundation, the lessons start one hour before the rink opens: 11 a.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Po-An Tsai, a student at UIC, has been taking hockey lessons for the past two years. “They teach you to skate more powerfully, to turn and to stop,” he says. “Figure skaters learn to spin.”

Besides hockey and figure skating, beginners can simply use the lessons to increase their confidence.

According to Katy McKinnon, a coach and instructor through Ice Reach, a nonprofit outreach organization dedicated to promoting the participation and involvement in ice sports. One of the first things beginners are taught is how to fall and get up. Once they master those important skills, they can learn to skate.

“First, it’s marching, then pushing, and learning how to glide to pick up speed,” says McKinnon.

Ann Marie Shipstad is the Program Director of Ice Reach.  “We’ve been doing the (free Millennium Park) lessons for about five years now, and we are thrilled to be back every year,” says Shipstad.

Shipstad has a staff of professional instructors who also teach at various indoor ice rinks around the city and offer private lessons. For private or semi-private lessons, contact Shipstad at

The ice-skating lessons program will continue, weather permitting, until March 6. Skating is free and open to the public. Skate rental costs $12.

For hours and more information, visit

Looking ahead to 2016

Shanti Nagarkatti | Community Contributor

With the books closed on another year, here are a few of the things we’re looking forward to in 2016.

To celebrate Lollapalooza’s 25th birthday, Lollapalooza is excited to announce an additional full day of music programming for the 2016 edition in beautiful Grant Park, which will feature more than 170 musical performances over four days. “When the party can’t wait for the weekend, the movers and shakers make it happen on Thursday! So, we’ve put together an entire additional day of music to celebrate our milestone year. It’s going to be a fantastic party!” says Perry Farrell, Lollapalooza founder.

Lollapalooza 2016 will take place Thursday, July 28 through Sunday, July 31. Four-day General Admission tickets will be available for $335 and single-day General Admission tickets will be available for $120 beginning Spring 2016.

Once again, the second city is the first choice for the NFL Draft. For the second consecutive year, Chicago will host the 2016 NFL Draft on April 28-30 at Grant Park and the Auditorium Theater at Roosevelt University. Last year more than 200,000 fans from across the country participated in the draft festivities in Chicago, including the highly popular Draft Town, a free, three-day outdoor interactive fan football festival in Grant Park. The event covered almost a million square feet of the park with concessions, activities and fan caves for
each NFL team.

Real Estate Developments

As 2016 gets underway, completion is nearing for MILA, the bkL-designed, 41-story, 402-unit rental apartment tower at 200 North Michigan Avenue. The tower anchors the corner of Michigan Avenue and Lake Street, from which the project derives its name. MILA is designed to be LEED Silver certified, with availability and pre-leasing details coming in Spring 2016. The location positions the tower in a key spot along “The Cultural Mile”, an evolving stretch of Michigan Avenue south of the bridge which has seen a number of new projects alongside Grant Park, Millennium Park, and the Art Institute, including the London House Hotel – set to open in Spring 2016 – to the north of MILA.

Changes are also coming to State Street spaces. Hungry movie buffs now have a new option with a newly opened dine-in AMC theater in the Block 37 shops…Office Depot is out, and Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th is in at the heart of the State Street shopping district. Saks Off Fifth, the retailer’s discount chain, is opening a store at 6 S. State St., in the space that Office Depot occupied before closing its doors. The new store, which is set to open this spring, would be the sixth in the Chicago area for Saks Off 5th… New York-based Tishman and AXA Real Estate Investment Managers, bought the Amalgamated Bank headquarters at 100 and 112 S. State St. from Amalgamated Bank, which is vacating space and moving to a Loop office tower, the buyer and seller confirmed. The developer is seeking a single retailer to fill up to 50,000 square feet, said Tishman Realty President David Rothenberg, making it the largest block of retail space on the Loop shopping strip.

Celebrations and Events

Put on something green and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago with parades, events, and a trip to an Irish pub. March begins with the Irish Film Festival and continues through the month. This year, St. Patrick’s Day falls on Thursday, March 17. The downtown celebration occurs Saturday, March 12, beginning with the dyeing of the Chicago River at 9 a.m. and continuing in Grant Park with a parade at noon—starting from Balbo and Columbus Dr.

Spring Planting Day

Soon the first signs of spring in the city will lift spirits as the Park at Lakeshore East is transformed from an arctic tundra to a verdant oasis. Each year, thanks to the efforts of volunteers, the six-acre park becomes a lush, fragrant flower and garden show in what some residents consider an extension of their own backyards.

Volunteering at Open Books

By Shanti Nagarkatti | Community Contributor

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering are tremendous. The right match can help you find friends, reach out to the community, learn new skills, and even improve your mental and physical health.

Open Books, a Chicago literacy nonprofit, operates a spacious, bright, and colorfully decorated bookstore in the Loop, featuring more than 50,000 books, nearly all of which are used and all of them donated.  All book sales help support Open Books’ instructional programs, which reach more than 5,000 students each year.

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Student wearing the Open Books pencil costume. Photo: Olga Ivanidi

Volunteers support everything at Open Books, and the organization in turn rewards its volunteers with enrichment opportunities and appreciation events. The level of enthusiasm is palpable, and anyone with a passion for reading who wishes to share their love of books will immediately feel at home. Since starting as a volunteer with Open Books over two years ago I have helped organize events to raise awareness and support the expansion of literacy programming in Chicago.

However, my most rewarding and fun connection with Open Books comes during the school year, with my participation in Creative Writing Workshops. These writing field trips, hosted at Open Books headquarters are from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., are a chance for 3rd-12th grade students to develop their writing skills in a meaningful way. Each volunteer works within a small group of children to discuss texts and write their own prose and poetry. At the end of the session, the students have an opportunity to perform what they have written in front of the classroom – all while wearing a pretty awesome pencil costume.

To learn more and get involved: Open Books, 651 W. Lake Street, (312) 475-1355,

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