The nation’s top adult figure skaters glided into Wake Forest this week, crystals glimmering on their dresses, hair primped to aerodynamic perfection, Lutz jumps practiced to exhaustion.
Most of these amateurs won’t carry home a medal from this national championship, let alone ever touch Olympic gold. One of them – Burton Powley from Des Moines – skates dressed as the Sparkle Troll of DreamWorks movie fame. Another – Terryl Allen from Albuquerque – is still competing at age 61.
But another prize waits for these hardworking rink veterans. Each time they skate, fans reach into Ziploc bags and grab stuffed animals, candy, pinwheels and even miniature liquor bottles to throw onto the ice – “tossies” for the effort. Whether they skate a perfect 6.0 or fall on their bedazzled fannies, skaters can scoop up these trinkets like an opera soprano collecting a bouquet of roses.
“Tossies are huge,” said Allen from New Mexico, who collected so many after skating on Wednesday that she had to stuff them down the front of her dress. “Frisbees. Undergarments. Everything’s been done. I swear.”
None of the skaters gathered at Polar Ice House this week could pinpoint the origin of tossies, but all agreed the tradition has skyrocketed to the point where an inspired skater-spectator might bring 200 – all of them hand-made.
“It’s become bigger because adults understand they’ve got lives and jobs, and just getting here is hard,” Allen said.
The title of Tossie Queen, by informal vote, might go either to Wendy Bauer of Spokane, Wash., who knitted rainbow-colored sweaters for each of the stuffed bears she lobbed onto the ice, or to Allen, who designed 175 skating-themed medals complete with a mirror, a heart-shaped crystal and four-paragraph inspirational passage – all of them wrapped inside a purple bag.