The Mitchell Figure Skating Club is setting a new precedent.
Today through Sunday, it hosts the third annual Palace Ice Festival at the Mitchell Activity Center. Although, for the first time it's a sanctioned United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) full competition, which has never been done before in South Dakota.
As a result, four judges from California, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Missouri had to be flown in to judge the testing and competition. There are expected to be around 125 total skaters over the three-day event, coming from Mitchell, Sioux Falls, Watertown, Rapid City and Pierre.
Mitchell is offering 52 different tests, with the first US figure skating test session taking place from 1 to 10 p.m. today, while the competition is from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. There will be a partner dance testing session with a male dance partner from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, too.
The idea of becoming a club didn't come out of nowhere for the club's founder Jessica Steidel, though. Since creating the club in 2012, she always felt this was the target year in order to allow Mitchell's skaters to continue progressing through the figure skating levels.
"If we did not go down the club status route, there would be no further advancement for the skaters of Mitchell," Steidl said. "We had grown so much as a club and we needed to obtain that club status to continue to promote skating."
To reach club status, she had to apply to the USFSA out of Colorado Springs, Colorado, but won't have to reapply in the future as long as it follows the USFSA's guidelines.
Envisioning Mitchell as a figure skating host wasn't hard to see either given its two sheets of ice. Now, Mitchell skaters, such as Steidl's daughter Erikka Steidl, will get a chance to test and compete on their home ice.
"You get the feel of the ice, so you know your own ice better than other rinks. It could be softer or harder," Erikka Steidl said about the advantages of skating at home.
Other South Dakota towns have started to follow in Mitchell's footsteps. Rapid City announced it will host a full competition in February, while Sioux Falls might potentially do the same in April.
For Mitchell, it's now about making its competition, "bigger and better," according to Jessica Steidl.
"We really want to show the skaters, family and judges the best hospitality that Mitchell has to offer because skating is only growing in South Dakota," she said. "As it grows throughout the state and nation, it gives people choices where they want to be and at the end of the day, we want them to choose Mitchell."
The goal is to continue hosting the annual competition in the second weekend of January as Jessica Steidl is pleased with the participation thus far.
Also, as soon as 2020, she hopes to make this a qualifying event for regional and sectional competitions using the International Judging System. This year's competition isn't a qualifying event and uses the 6.0 scoring system.
But for now, she's excited about the strides the club has made in a way she describes as "surreal."
"I knew I wanted to get to this level, it's just amazing that I'm here," Jessica Steidl said. "I wanted to do something big for Mitchell and I knew that it wasn't going to be long until the rest of South Dakota got on board. ... We're setting a precedent here. We're the first ones to do the full competition and testing and that we're very proud of."