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Wheeler living her skating dream

Hannah Wheeler (right) is shown playing Snow White in one of the meet-and-greet sessions following a Disney One Ice performance.1 / 2
Hannah Wheeler is shown warming up for a performance when she was a high school senior in New Richmond.2 / 2

Hannah Wheeler was a princess, almost every day for nine months.

Beginning in September, she'll be a European princess for nine months.

Wheeler spent September through May living out her dream of skating with the "Disney On Ice" national "Dare To Dream" tour.

Wheeler was a competitive figure skater during most of her years attending school in New Richmond. For many of those years, her most pressing goal was to become part of the prestigious "Disney On Ice" ice skating show.

Wheeler, who is working at the New Richmond Golf Club during this summer, skates every morning in Stillwater to maintain her skills.

She is quick to say that life as a professional skater wasn't exactly what she expected. She spent the nine months living out of two suitcases as the tour traveled from city to city. Her first year in the tour was a year spent learning the ropes. She and her partner, a skater from Canada, served as understudies to the veteran skaters who played Cinderella and Prince Charming.

Being an understudy to the star attraction was just part of Wheeler's role in the cast of 35 skaters. In the "meet and greet" at the end of shows, she played Snow White. She mainly served as an ensemble skater, where she changed characters for every scene of the show. One of her main characters was Minnie Mouse.

During the nine months, Wheeler performed in 368 shows. The tour performed every Wednesday through Sunday, with three shows on Saturdays and Sundays.

For someone who loves to travel, this was an opportunity beyond her dreams.

"I've seen things I wouldn't have seen on my own. I loved Hollywood, Vancouver, Canada, San Diego. The act of travelling was my favorite part. I couldn't stop looking out the bus windows at everything we were seeing," Wheeler said.

Wheeler was part of the West Coast troupe of "Disney On Ice." They performed in 38 cities, mainly up and down the coast. She said sold out shows at Staples Center in Los Angeles were probably the largest crowds they attracted. The Staples Center performances attracted many celebrities with their children, like Halle Berry, Adam Sandler, Tim Allen and Jennifer Garner.

Her family did get to see her perform for one weekend. While the tour was performing in Phoenix, Ariz., her family planned a college visit for her younger sister, Alex, so they could have some time together.

As someone fresh out of high school, it was a year of growing up quickly for Wheeler. She said her growth was recognized when she won the "In like a lamb, out like a lion" award from her cast members.

"I was the baby on the tour. I was with people older than me. The oldest skater was 34," she said.

Wheeler said she expects 15 or more of the 35 skaters to be back for the tour that starts in September. Wheeler is excited because this year's tour will be spent in Europe. The tour is scheduled to start in Glasgow, Scotland with performances planned all over Western Europe. The tour includes three weeks of performances in Paris.

Wheeler roomed with a skater from Australia last year and they plan to room together again on the European junket. Wheeler said she had originally planned to stay with Disney On Ice for two years, but now she's extended that plan to a third year.

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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