By Brittni Henderson
“Every year we say we’re not going to do it,” Anjie Votolato says as she smiles at her two sons Mitchell, 27 and Griffin, 24.
“Yeah, but then Griffin bats his eyelashes!” Mitchell adds with a laugh.
This longtime Smithfield family has a special tradition that involves digging a hole in the ground, constructing boards, getting a truckload of water, and creating a handheld Zamboni—which Griffin boasts was a hit at his seventh grade science fair.
For the Votolatos, this ritual has become more of a yearly celebration for friends, family members and neighbors, many of whom have assisted in the yearly construction in some way.
Home Ice, or the Votolato family ice rink, has been a work in progress for over 25 years. It all started back in college for the boys’ father Ernest. While he was in his undergraduate years at Bowdoin, his fraternity brothers would create an ice rink for the neighborhood to utilize in the wintertime. They would plow a nearby field in the shape of a rink and have the local fire department help them flood the field to the perfect ice-freezing level.
Over the years, the Votolato’s rink on Tarklin Road has grown bigger, gotten more high-tech, and more skaters have laced up to enjoy the wonderful experience.
“Every November, the day we put up the rink is more like a party,” Anjie shares. “I cook, while friends and family come to help set everything up!”
While their sons were younger, Anjie and Ernest relied on their friends to help put up the rink each year. The Reall, Mitchell, Nakhoul, and Cascione families not only contributed the man (or woman!) power to help build Home Ice, but crucial parts of its everyday functionality, as well. What could truly be a three man, all day job, has become the annual rink party—which also lasts all day, but by the end, it’s more of a fun social hour while the adults and “kids” eat, drink, and look forward to the first day the ice will be ready for skating.
Now that the aforementioned “kids” have grown into mature young men, their friends have mostly taken over the job that their fathers once had. Also, just as the children have matured, their skating skills have, too.
“I had no idea that they would develop such a love of skating,” Ernie says.
Griffin and Mitchell both took to skating so much that they played hockey frequently growing up, including both for high school teams. Mitchell was a part of the Smithfield High School Sentinel squad, while Griffin played as a LaSalle Ram for three years followed by two years at New Hampton Preparatory High School in New Hampshire.
Home Ice has hosted 3-on-3 tournaments, New Year’s Eve parties, high school team gatherings, and innumerable Friday and Saturday night skates under the lights. Anjie always makes sure that the woodstove-heated Home Ice hut is stocked with warm, delicious snacks for skaters needing a break. All of her hard work doesn’t go unnoticed—the boys always make sure to maintain the ice during gatherings, ensuring that the rink will be ready for the next time.
“We are anxious to see what happens next season, though,” Anjie shares.
With Griffin heading off to pursue dental school at the University of Maryland in the fall, Team Votolato will be down one crucial player. Hopes for a follow-up season seem high, but Home Ice fans will have to stay tuned to see what changes occur over the next year!