Longtime Stardust rink manager Bonnie Burnside, back left, with her two great nieces, Ryley and Chloe Gravel-Fallis, along with Tracey Gravel. The family sits outside the iconic rink during the final skate on July 8. (Photo: Amy Reid)

Longtime Stardust rink manager Bonnie Burnside, back left, with her two great nieces, Ryley and Chloe Gravel-Fallis, along with Tracey Gravel. The family sits outside the iconic rink during the final skate on July 8. (Photo: Amy Reid)

VIDEO: Chicken dance, oldies and more at final Stardust skate in Surrey

Nostalgia was alive and well during the iconic Stardust roller rink’s last hurrah

SURREY – Hundreds flooded through the doors of the old Stardust roller rink Saturday, in a final farewell to the beloved venue before the building is torn down.

Oldies blared through the speakers. Skaters boogied to popular hits like Who Let the Dogs Out, Jessie’s Girl and, naturally, a Journey song or two.

And of course, what would a final Stardust skate have been without the Chicken Dance?

Organizers even pulled old Stardust skates out of storage for the event.

Stardust was a beloved nighttime venue for Surreyites.

Some might say the Whalley facility’s closure more than a decade ago was the end of an era. But rewind to the late ’70s and Stardust was the place to be.

A slow Friday or Saturday night in those days would see about 600 people fill the building.

With its flashing lights, laser beams, spinning disco ball and blaring music, Whalley’s Stardust roller rink drew huge crowds for decades.

As all good things must, the attraction came to an end in 2005, a casualty of the changing times.

The crowds dwindled and by the time Stardust closed its doors, the numbers had fallen to 50 or 60 a night.

But last Saturday, July 8, the building that used to house the beloved roller rink held one final event (via four different sessions throughout the day from noon to 10 p.m.) before its torn down to make way for a planned $200-million 50-storey “GEC Education Mega Center” project.

Tickets to the final skate, at Central City Arena as the rink has been known in recent years, sold out within 24 hours.

And that’s been the case with other reunion skates in year’s past.

Why is that?

Bonnie Burnside, longtime manager of the iconic rink, said it’s the memories.

“I always wondered why people were so excited about this rink because they’re just cinder block buildings but I realized it’s not the actual building as much as the things people did when they were here,” she mused.

Everyone has a Stardust story, said Burnside.

“Celebrating your 10th birthday. Playing roller hockey and getting your first goal. Seeing your first live band as a teenager. Sneaking in a bottle of beer and not getting caught. All of those kinds of memories, those are what people love about Stardust.”

She smiles as she explains her niece Jessica met her husband at Stardust and now they have a little girl.

“If they hadn’t met at Stardust, they wouldn’t have Aubrey, so that’s pretty special. And they’re not the only ones with a story like that.”

Over the years, Burnside’s mother, father, sisters and even nieces all worked at the roller rink.

Fond memories, for Burnside, were the many charity roll-a-thons, Battle of the Band events and special Olympic programs.

She also enjoyed being part of a rink that was “ahead of the curve,” as she put it.

Rinks from the U.S. would look to Stardust for ideas, Burnside recalled.

“We were the first ones to bring 10-foot video screens into the area,” she said of the ’80s. “And you actually couldn’t get MTV up here so what we would do is get one of the operators in Eastern Washington to videotape them and send them up.”

And the bird dance?

“We got them into that,” she said, laughing. “Then all the ones in the States started doing it. We didn’t invent the dance, but we brought it into roller rinks.”

While Burnside struggled to pick just one favourite song from her Stardust years, she smiled as she said Jessie’s Girl is high on her list.

“Then there’s Good Riddance,” she added. “That was one we played a lot when the rink was closing so that one makes me think of Stardust right away.”

Burnside’s nephew Jeffrey Patterson was the DJ for the final skates on July 8.

Stardust is in his blood.

“When I was born I actually came to Stardust before I went home,” he said, smiling. “This was like a second home to me. I grew up here, I played hockey here, I worked here. I wasn’t going to miss this for the world.”

Patterson said knowing the building is going to be torn down is like “tearing down some of my childhood memories.”

“I had dates here. Yah, I know, lame, but it happened anyways,” he laughed. “This was the greatest place to be and to me it will always be in my heart.”

He spent a lot of time picking out music, he added.

“I even brought some prizes to give out to people that I spent my own money on because I want the memories to last for other people who join today as well.”

Tracey Gravel was helping run the show Saturday. She worked at Stardust from 1987 to 2005, first as a cashier, then a concession manager and for many years, ran the roller hockey program.

“We have pictures of my daughter jammed into the car seat with skates all around the car,” she recalled, smiling.

“It’s pretty bittersweet,” she said of the final event. “It’s nice to be here doing another skate but it’s sad to know this is the last one. All along since 2005, the bulidling has been here so we’ve been able to pop in every now and then. But now it’s final.

“It’ll be even more final when the wrecking ball comes.”

Gravel said Stardust helped her adjust to life in Surrey when she first moved here from Thunder Bay.

“I moved here in Grade 12,” she explained, “and I wasn’t too happy about moving and having to come here, all my friends were graduating back home. When I saw the ad for this job, I used to skate all the time in Thunder Bay and I thought you know what? Maybe it’s something I can do, and meet people. I’ve met some lifelong friends I’m still friends with today – I met by best friend here.

“And then of course Bonnie’s family is like family, too. We all kind of become one.”

Michelle Edwards took her two young ones to the first of the four final skates Saturday, at noon.

Asked if she spent time at the rink growing up, Edwards replied, “All the time.”

“The first time I remember coming here it was in kindergarten and it was for my friend’s birthday party and I thought it was the best birthday party ever. I used to bug my parents all the time to come here. I came here through my childhood, through my preteens and a little bit of my teenage years before they closed down in 2005.”

It was her four-year-old daughter Raeleigh Olson’s first time rollerskating ever.

“She’s liking it so far, she kind of hit her elbow,” she added. “I wanted my kids to see where I used to hang out, how much fun it is, the music and the disco lights. I’m glad they did this and had the Stardust reunion type thing.”

Have a Stardust story? Don’t be shy. In a final farewell to the beloved venue, the Surrey Now-Leader is asking readers to submit their stories. Comment below, or email edit@surreynowleader.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


Michelle Edwards with seven-year-old Liam and four-year-old Raeleigh during the last Stardust skate in Surrey on July 8.

Michelle Edwards with seven-year-old Liam and four-year-old Raeleigh during the last Stardust skate in Surrey on July 8.

Just Posted

Surrey Community Cat Foundation received funding to assist with medical procedures. (File photo)
SurreyCats receives grant to assist with spay/neuter costs

PetSmart Charities of Canada donates $5,000

Beds are set up at the emergency response centre at the North Surrey Recreation Centre. (Contributed file photo)
26 people test positive for COVID-19 at Surrey emergency shelter

Centre located at North Surrey Recreation Centre

Surrey firefighters respond to a townhouse fire Sunday morning. (Shane MacKichan photos)
Firefighters respond to townhouse fire in Surrey

Fire ‘knocked down quickly’: witness

FILE PHOTO: Environment Canada has issued a snowfall warning for South Surrey and White Rock.
Snowfall warning issued for Surrey, White Rock

Accumulation of two to 15 centimetres is anticipated across B.C.’s south coast

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Jan. 24

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment Mission, has break-out year

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Most Read