“Bets are down, watch your hands, roll ’em!” a craps dealer’s voice called out to a group frozen in anticipation around one of Friday night’s fundraising tables at the Edgartown Yacht Club. “SEVEN!” Good-humored players then watched as the dealer cleared their one- and five-dollar chips from the table. “Ah, it’s all for the kids,” said a bemused loser.
The all-powerful “house” at last night’s Las Vegas Night was raising money for Martha’s Vineyard’s community-supported Ice Arena and its myriad of all-ages programming.
The president of the Ice Arena’s board, Jim Kelleher, reflected on the evolution of the beloved community rink on Friday. “In the late ’70s, all they had was a vacant field, and when it got cold enough they waited for the fire trucks to come over and flood it, turn it to ice,” Mr. Kelleher said. “Over nearly 40 years we’ve become an active community-supported rink, taking care of as many young kids as any other of our Island’s children’s programs, all the way through teen and adult skaters.”
The biennial gambling event helps to fill the Ice Arena’s coffers, not only to fund instructional clinics for tots and teens, hockey leagues, clinics, and camps, but also “just to maintain our year-round operating costs,” Mr. Kelleher said. “You know it’s 90 degrees out there in the summer!”
Friday’s one-night license for legal gambling attracted a generous crowd, willing to roll the dice and drop their chips to support the rink. Board member Meredith Goldthwait and Treasurer Angie Grant served as sentinels at the door: “We’ve got roulette, craps, and five blackjack tables tonight.”
“The Edgartown Yacht Club is such a perfect venue to host this, and they donate the space so generously to us,” Ms. Goldthwait said. “Members of the MVRHS boys hockey team came in to help set the place up, Island businesses sponsor tables, and then the community comes out to play –– all around, it’s such a great event.”
Blackjack dealer Howey Sashin served up fateful cards all night to an animated table. “You can have spaghetti dinners, bake sales, or raffles to raise money, but it’s unique to bring a little bit of Vegas to the Island for a night,” Mr. Sashin said. “The arena is a very special organization, everybody from the very young to the very old can come out and enjoy the ice. It provides recreation for our entire community.”
Dukes County Sheriff Mike McCormack chimed in: “The arena isn’t a private or public rink, it’s a community rink and provides safe and healthful recreation for all ages.” Sheriff McCormack, like many of the board members and volunteers, first became active in the arena when his children were young. “I’ve been involved 30 years; my kids grew up skating at all levels of the program,” Sheriff McCormack said. “And even now, though they are older, I still support the arena because I see what value it has for our community.”
Vineyarders who filled the tables last night were all smiles, win or lose. “Personally,” one generous gambler said, “I’m trying to blow as much money as possible.” Ms. Grant said over the years, most winners give a portion back to the house: “They know what the whole thing is about.”
A giddy craps dealer called out to the crowd, “And that’s great, because we love taking people’s money!”
To learn more about the programs offered at Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena, visit mvarena.com.