For Brent Moncur, operating the Ice Corral at his farm southwest of Lovell has always been a labor of love, a way to give back to his community, especially kids.
But now he and his family are getting a little bit of extra help in the form of a fundraiser this Saturday hosted by Club Dauntless at the corral.
Club Dauntless will host an ice-skating party this Saturday, Dec. 29, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Ice Corral, 1322 Road 9. People are invited to come and skate or just watch. Any donation, big or small, is welcomed, and Club Dauntless will match all donations. Hot chocolate will be provided.
The goal of the fundraiser is support in general but more specifically a skate sharpener, which will help the Moncurs keep the skates they provide in tip-top shape.
Brent Moncur said he built the Ice Corral in 1996, expanding from a small skating area he had for his family. Youngest son MitChell Moncur “got me interested and going,” he said, adding that MitChell also fostered his love of skating and ice hockey.
“As soon as I got a stick in my hand, I fell in love with it,” he said.
Moncur built a 200-foot-long, 85-90-foot-wide ice rink in an old cow corral and improved it with bentonite matting and fencing.
“It took a lot of work to get it in,” he said. “Being an old corral, it had the old posts we could tie to. We took one section of posts out to make it longer, figuring that if we were going to fix it we might as well make it full size.
“The hardest part was putting the metal poles in an arc to form a gradual curve. We had to use a loader tractor to push them in. Then we started tying boards to it.”
A large gate was added for the equipment used to make and smooth the ice. Moncur uses a side-by-side with a blade to clear the ice of shavings and snow, and then he applies a new layer of ice using a 200-gallon tank he has on a trailer, using heated water to form the ice.
“Cold water will flake out and won’t adhere,” Moncur said. “Warm water melts in and adheres. It immediately freezes. It’s like using a Zamboni.
“I originally used a riding lawnmower to remove the snow and ice shavings. My side-by-side has a cab. I used to have to warm my hands on the exhaust.”
Moncur then uses a Squeegee on the back of the trailer to spread the water and make the new ice smooth.
“It spreads it out and makes it nice,” he said. “It only takes about five minutes to freeze, depending on the temperature, and sometimes freezes immediately.”
He said he surfaces the ice about every other day, sometimes daily, depending on the amount of skating the rink has experienced.
“It takes me about an hour to do it if there’s no snow, up to three hours if there is snow (to be cleared),” Moncur said. “I leave some snow on the north side a lot to prevent the sun from getting to the ice and creating mud. The sun will work on any dark spot and reflects off the side boards.”
Filling and freezing a fresh rink takes longer. He said after recent warm weather he filled the corral fresh on Sunday so it would be ready by Christmas on Tuesday. As of Tuesday the ice wasn’t solid enough to walk on, but he said it would be by the next day. It takes 4½ to five hours to fill the rink, he said, using water from a lower pond.
Another service Moncur has provided for many years is the use of skates, which are provided on shelves in the warming hut adjacent to the corral. He’s happy to provide the skates for free and said the only problem is when users don’t place the paired skates back on the shelves and they get mixed up.
“I can sometimes spend two hours sorting them,” he said. “Some people just throw them in there…I don’t mind the money it takes (to run the rink) if kids will keep things picked up and cleaned up.”
One new addition to the facility is a fire pit adjacent to the corral constructed by his grandson, Tyler Nichols.
Moncur said a skate sharpener would be a wonderful addition to his operation, noting that “a reasonable one” would cost $1,000 to $1,500, though some could be much more expensive.
“If people walk off the rubber mats and walk on the dirt, the skates get dull instantly,” Moncur said, adding, “It’s harder to sharpen a figure skate than a hockey skate. It’s a little touchier to get them (figure skates) to work.”
He said the original batch of skates were donated many years ago by the Cody ice arena staff, and people have donated others. The blades can last a long time, but the shoe portion breaks down over time. Some of the skates are simply worn out.
Moncur said he loves the idea of having the Ice Corral near town. Not only is it safer than skating on a river or lake, it’s more convenient close to town.
It’s fitting that Devin and Stacy Bair are offering to help raise money for the Ice Corral. Moncur said he has been skating with Bair for many years.
“Devin and I used to skate together and play hockey in Cody, Powell and here,” he said. “We also taught groups of kids how to play hockey.
“The funnest thing is young kids learning how to skate and helping them out. They always have a lot of enthusiasm.”
By David Peck