Former Ice Follies performer reflects on her experience 75 years later

Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 8:25 AM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) - Before there was “Stars on Ice,” there were the “Ice Follies.”

Started in 1936 by three men from Minnesota, the “Ice Follies” performed large-scale, nationally touring shows featuring talented figure skaters from all over the country.

It ended in the 1970s, when the parent company began “Disney on Ice.”

Some of the first “Ice Follies” came from the Northland.

As “Stars on Ice” performs at the AMSOIL arena this weekend, one former “Ice Follie” is taking a skate down memory lane.

When 93-year-old Duluthian Barbara “Bardie” Brown was 18, she set off on the adventure of a lifetime, boarding a private train to California to begin her 2 year career as an “Ice Follie.”

“It was a very popular show, we were treated like celebrities,” Brown said.

While it was glamorous, she says dedication was key.

“They had very strict rules, behaviors,” Brown said, “We were weighed in every week so we had to keep our weight down. The costumes were ours, they all had our names on them.”

Her favorite part was travelling the country. The “Ice Follies” were often invited to visit castles, mansions and monuments.

“The majority of skaters like myself had no plans of being career skaters, but went - like the Navy - went to see the world. And that’s what we did,” Brown said.

75 years later, Brown is ready to share her memories with family and friends.

“They know I was in it, but they don’t know any of the details,” Brown said, “The more I thought about it, I thought maybe it is a big thing.”

As “Stars on Ice” comes to Duluth this winter for the first time in decades, they are specially honoring Barbara Brown.

“You could just make a straight line from the ‘Ice Follies’ to ‘Stars on Ice.’ And I can’t think of a more family friendly wonderful embracing of a Duluthian to be be on our ‘Stars on Ice show,’” said DECC Communications Director, Lucie Amundsen.

Brown has always called Duluth home. She spent most of her childhood on the rink at the Curling Club.

Now, ‘Stars on Ice’ will shine a spotlight on this secret skating celebrity where it all began seven decades ago.

“I guess I never regretted what I did, and it was just a part of my life that was exciting and fun,” Brown said, “It was just a wonderful experience.”

Barbara “Bardie” Brown and her entire family will be at AMSOIL arena Sunday for “Stars on Ice.”

While Bardie doesn’t get out on the ice anymore herself, she said she still keeps up with figure skating teams across the Northland.

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