Skaters ready for Debutante Ball Sunday

The ‘Blood Drive Betties' and ‘Lunachix' Walla Walla Sweets Roller Girls teams square off in the ‘Debutante Brawl' Sunday at the Walla Walla YMCA.

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The Sweets roller derby team has moved from working on toe stops at an early practice to bout time this weekend as they host their first bout, the "Debutante Ball," Sunday at the YMCA.

As a community, Walla Walla has been kind. It's been patient and supportive.

It's time to reward those virtues, said Kimi ‘Purl Slam' Schroeder, founder and president of Walla Walla Sweets Roller Girls.

"This is us showing them, finally, we are here for you," Shroeder said.

The new roller derby league plans to display what it's made of on Sunday with a first-ever public exhibition rink bout at its new home, the YMCA gym. With a little bit of rough and whole lotta rock ‘n' roll.

She's expecting an extravaganza, or at least a "very" fun time, when two house teams meet and collide in the Y's main gym, Schroeder said. "Lunachix" will battle the "Blood Drive Betties" in the league's "Debutante Brawl."

The skaters are continuing to progress through their embryonic phase, the "birth year" required before competing officially in the Women's Flat Track Derby Association. In that time, numerous changes have taken place. Skaters, coaches and support crew have rolled in and rolled out, although the league retains most of its founding core.

One of the biggest changes is coming under the umbrella of the YMCA in early June, Schroeder said. The move took the women from a church-owned gym too small for the league's needs to the larger gym at 340 S. Park St.

Relocation has meant more than increased floor space, noted the skating queen.

"Being at the Y lends us a legitimacy and better exposure," Schroeder said.

It also means a more conservative dress code. Traditionally, roller derby athletes amp up their skating personas through costuming and rink performances. A lot of hoopin' and hollerin' and sometimes more than a few inches of skin go into giving the fans a good time.

Becoming part of the Y means adhering to its dress and conduct codes. Although that was hard for some skaters to take, Schroeder sees it as a way to return to her original vision for the new league.

"I'm thrilled," she said. "No cheeks and no cleavage bouncing out. It makes us more family-friendly, even just adult-friendly. A lot of adults are still a bit scandalized about women doing roller derby. They think of the 1970s, of Raquel Welch (in "Kansas City Bomber") and hot, little mamas."

For one thing, that's a perception that goes with banked, not flat, track, Schroeder pointed out. And the Walla Walla Sweets Roller Girls are about being good sports, inside the rink and out, she said.

The teams have done a number of community outreach projects and have a mission to mentor and support at-risk women. At the top of its list, the league's goal is to offer something brand new to the Walla Walla area, Schroeder said. "A fun family experience."

Randy Grant sees evidence that is just what is growing with these Onions. Grant is the executive director of the YMCA. "I am proud to see the husbands and children come down and support their moms in this program," he said.

As a "conservative farm kid" he has some unease about the costumes and hoop-la, Grant conceded. "But (I) realize beyond any superficial differences, we aren't much different. We want the best for our families, for our communities and our country."

The common ground goes farther, he added. Skating, as a sport, is an important tool in building up community welfare - physical, spiritual and emotional. "I am more interested in combating community problems like health issues, general feelings of disconnect and isolation than I worry about fish net costumes."

If roller derby is successful in Walla Walla it can lead to roller skating programs for kids of all ages. Many YMCAs across the nation have similar clubs, such as hiking, bike and dance, Grant noted.

She's all for broadening the sport locally, Schroeder said. Her hope is that Sunday's exhibition bout will not only entice possible sponsors but start a crop of new fans of Walla Walla Sweets Roller Girls.

The evening will include concessions for sale, a half-time show and a color guard posted by Walla Walla area Amvets Post No. 1111.

Skaters to watch:

There will be a few skaters for the audience to really keep an eye on Sunday at the Walla Walla Sweets Roller Girls exhibition bout, noted league president, Kimi Schroeder.

The league's first public battle will be in the main gym of the YMCA, 340 S. Park St. Doors will open at 4:15 p.m. and the bout begins at 5 p.m.

Tickets, $8 in advance or $10 at the door, are available at Lost Boardroom and Book & Game. Children age 5 and under are free.

Skater No. 2, Venomous Vixen, is the "juking" queen. Rachel McCauley is a real control artist on skates, and can bounce all over the rink without getting knocked down, Schroeder said.

The Blonde Bandita, No. 98, is also know as Katrina Morales. "She's real friendly with the penalty box. She just plays really hard. If that means she's going to get a penalty, that's what it means. I say that with nothing but love," the president said with a laugh.

Also watch the newest referee, Maria Garcia. "Atticus Pinch" is the only female ref working the bout, Schroeder said. "An athlete in her own right, she just joined derby recently and she's just taken to reffing like a fish to water."

For more information call the Y at 525-8863.

Debutante Brawl

The league's first public battle will be in the main gym of the YMCA, 340 S. Park St. Doors will open at 4:15 p.m. and the bout begins at 5 p.m.

Tickets, $8 in advance or $10 at the door, are available at Lost Boardroom and Book & Game. Children age 5 and under are free.

For more information call the Y at 525-8863.

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