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Former figure skater continues teaching kids to skate for free in Somerset

Catherine Cranston, far left, has been teaching children how to skate since 1997. She is pictured above with a group of skaters from last year's Learn to Skate program. Cranston is teaming up with the Somerset Lions again this year to offer free skating lessons at the Somerset Youth Civic Center Sept. 27 & 29 and Oct. 3 & 4.

Catherine Cranston has always had a love of skating.

Originally from Fergus Falls, Minn., Cranston began figure skating at an early age. By the time she was 20 years old, she was teaching figure skating. She then branched out into "power skating."

"That's basically teaching hockey players how to skate," she explained. "My mentor taught me in the 1980s how to teach hockey players how to hold their hips, etc. Now power skating instruction is big time."

Over the years, she has taught skating in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota and North Dakota.

"If you live in this area, you really should know how to skate," she said.

Teaching seemed to come naturally to Cranston, as she worked as a public school teacher by day. She currently teaches fourth grade in St. Paul, Minn.

She's been living in Somerset since 1997, and continues to teach children how to skate without any pay.

In fact, she and her daughter, Abby Dalzell, have teamed with the Somerset Lions to offer free "Learn to Skate" sessions for Sept. 27, Sept. 29, Oct. 3 and Oct. 4.

Last year was the first time that these sessions were offered, and each night they had between 45-50 participants.

Each night is divided into two sessions: ages 6 and under have their class from 5:40-6:10 p.m. and ages 7 and up have their class from 6:10-6:40 p.m.

The classes are open to the public. There is no registration necessary.

To help with the size of the classes, Cranston enlists some help from former students.

"We have at least three to five high school players on the ice with us," she said. "It's come full circle for me because I taught a lot of these kids."

Students are requested to bring either figure skates or hockey skates. Cranston also suggests wearing one pair of socks, mittens, a jacket, a helmet or knit stocking cap and comfortable pants (i.e. sweatpants). Snowpants or snowmobiles suits are not recommended.

She said that the sessions are designed to be all-inclusive, which means that students can choose to attend one night or all four nights because each night will include a 10-minute review.

"A 5-year-old will be skating around after one session," Cranston said. "They just need to come to one or two sessions so they are not afraid of skating."

For more information, contact Cranston at cathy or call Dan Gilkerson, arena manager for the Somerset Youth Civic Center, at 715-222-2448.