Roll Out!

How one Mercer County resident is bringing roller skating back to Trenton

Jaclyn Duncan is a local musician who wants to bring roller skating back to Trenton. As the owner of an entertainment company since 2010, Jaclyn Duncan Music LLC, Duncan plays the flute and piano and specializes in classical and jazz instrumentation. While her music business thrived, Duncan’s passion for roller skating was never far behind. Growing up during a time when roller skating was popular, Duncan developed a love for the activity. While life swayed her away from skating, in 2018 she picked up her skates again and the Mercer County resident started skating indoors. She discovered that skating rinks were no longer within the Trenton area, so she started arranging meetups with other like-minded skaters for some good-hearted fun. Jaclyn sits down with the Trenton Journal to discuss her roller skating meetups and why she chose the capital city.

What made you start your roller-skate meetups in Trenton? Are you from Trenton or the Mercer County area?

I grew up in northern New Jersey; however, I’ve been living in Lawrence Township for 13 years. I have two passions: skating and music. As a musician, I’ve been involved with the music scene in Trenton through open mics and Art All Night. In getting to know the local community, I really developed a love for this city. I want to see it thrive!

Is it difficult to find venues to hold your skate meetups within Trenton?

Yes! Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a roller rink in Trenton since 1986. Last year, a skate student of mine, who happens to be from Trenton, told me that I needed to check out the pavilion at Cadwalader Park. As soon as my wheels grazed the floor, I knew I’d be back! Spring weather and the lifting of Covid restrictions made it easy to get fellow skaters excited about rolling outside in Trenton, especially since there’s nowhere else within 30 minutes to skate. It also really got me thinking about how Newark and Camden, two of the other cities in New Jersey, have roller rinks and thriving skate scenes. Why not bring this back to Trenton? [But when looking for venues,] not only do we have to carefully navigate what the local laws are regarding gatherings (which includes acquiring permits), but we also need a very smooth, flat space that isn’t booked used for other sports. It needs to be a big enough space to be able to move freely at a variety of speeds as well. That is harder to come by than you may think.

How long have you been holding your meetups?

I began hosting weekly meetups in Trenton in April. I’ve organized meetups like this before in various locations; however, this is the first time I’ve done something specifically in Trenton.

Jaclyn Duncan skating around Cadwalader Park

What specifically goes on at these gatherings?

The first 30 minutes are typically spent sweeping the space to make it safe to skate on. Even the smallest pebble can send you flying if you hit it directly with a wheel! New visitors will be asked to sign a waiver, similar to those that the rinks have you sign upon entry. After that, we get the music pumpin’, lace up and skate to our hearts’ content until the park closes. Skaters of all levels of experience are welcomed, so you’ll see anything from beginners practicing new footwork to pros dancing and spinning across the floor. But the best part to me, is seeing people of all levels teaching each other. I always make a point at every meetup to spend some time teaching, and I’m excited to see others begin to do the same.

What has the turnout been at your meetups? What are people, who attend, saying about your gatherings?

We started small. Only six people [were] at the first meetup; however, now [there are always over 20 people in attendance]. I expect those numbers to continue to climb as we head into summer. When new folks visit with us, I often hear, “see you next week” as they depart, which always puts a smile on my face. We’ve had at least 30 different people attend more than once. Many have expressed what a “good idea” it was to do this in Trenton, and I’ve heard multiple times how people have found the meetups to be friendly and welcoming.

You are a great skater. How long have you been skating and what draws you to the activity?

Thank you! I skated as a kid in my driveway through the 80s and moved to inline skates in the 90s. Then motherhood and career took me away from skating for nearly 20 years. In late 2017, I met someone who inspired me to purchase roller skates again. By late summer 2018, I was regularly skating in rinks throughout New Jersey where I dove headfirst into learning the local rhythm skate styles. Roller skating is easy to become passionate about. It checks off so many boxes! From the health benefits to the social aspect to the freedom of expression you’ll find on a skate floor, it’s no surprise that so many describe it as their “therapy”. In 2018, when I found myself in a rink, I was grieving from the loss of someone very dear. Skating was the one thing that allowed me to look past my grief and be fully present in the moment. Because of my background in music, the rhythmic nature of the local skate styles quickly drew me in, and within a year I was more in shape than I’d been my entire life. It’s funny, because I’d never been an athlete before. I’d always loved roller skating even as a kid, but I had no idea it would become such a central part of my life in my 40s!

Photo credit: Jaclyn Duncan

What is your goal for your roller-skate meetups?

Roller skating has a way of allowing people of all ages to tap into their inner child. When I think about young kids playing on a playground, I think of how they hardly notice differences between them. Their sole purpose in that moment is to have fun, and that is what I wish to see at our meetups. I’ve always been a strong proponent of tearing down social barriers and creating inclusive spaces, so beyond just providing a venue for safe, wholesome, light-hearted fun, I want the meetups to be a place where people of all walks of life feel welcomed and a part of something. In a time in history when our country is as divided as ever, this feels important. But beyond the big picture, I’d love to see roller skating have a home again at the heart of our state’s capital!

When and where can those who are interested attend or how can they learn about upcoming events?

I post about the weekly meetups in my stories on Instagram (@rollingintune) as well as in a Facebook group called “Skate Skate Skate NJ”. Currently, we meet every Wednesday, rain or shine, at the pavilion to the right of the playground in Cadwalader Park from 4:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. There is parking along the street within the park. The meetups are for roller skaters or inline skaters, ages 18 and older, and each skater must provide their own skates. I have a list of recommended entry level roller skates that I can provide to anyone seeking to purchase a pair. Donations are collected weekly during the meetups to help cover park permits and insurance costs. It’s possible that a second weekly meetup will be added in the future. Anyone interested in attending our meetups is welcome to message me on Instagram with questions.

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