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Grandfathered in! Shipstad keeps family tradition

Ice Follies scion finds his niche in producing corporate shows

From left to right: Kelly Shipstad, Eddie Shipstad, Larry Ibarra, Katie Shipstad, Erica Archambault and Ryan Jahnke before the Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
From left to right: Kelly Shipstad, Eddie Shipstad, Larry Ibarra, Katie Shipstad, Erica Archambault and Ryan Jahnke before the Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (courtesy of Eddie Shipstad)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(07/19/2012) - As a child, Eddie Shipstad went where no member of his family had gone before -- into skating competitions. That doesn't mean his relatives were unfamiliar with ice. His grandfather, Edward Shipstad, was one of the founders of Ice Follies.

"My parents let me try every sport -- youth basketball, baseball (he only lasted one day) and soccer," said Shipstad, whose father managed the Broadmoor World Arena.

His elementary school was across the street from the rink, and so he often found himself sharing ice with world-level skaters (not that he knew it at the time).

"It wasn't until I was a novice that I realized, 'I think this is something I am good at,'" Shipstad recalled. "I loved being on the ice. I really liked the people around skating. All my closest friends were skaters."

When it clicked that he had real potential to excel in skating, Shipstad began to take it more seriously, and the other sports faded away.

Even though his grandfather didn't know the competitive landscape, he was still an avid supporter. Every year, the elder Shipstad, who had been an ice comedian, would attend the annual skating show of the Broadmoor Skating Club. He'd also attend his grandson's competitions on the West Coast and offer words of advice.

"I was very proud of my grandfather and what he did with the shows. I loved going to the Ice Follies every year," Shipstad, 44, said.

When he'd visit his grandparents in California, Shipstad loved to watch video tapes of the ice shows. He found himself fascinated with the production numbers that were the hallmarks of the old ice shows.

He found his way into that world after five trips to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where he qualified at the novice, junior and senior levels. A chronic ankle injury ended his competitive days and set him off in a different direction.

Shipstad toured with Disney on Ice for 2 1/2 years before returning to Colorado and settling in Denver, where he began to coach. He also became involved in various skating shows.

In 1999, he became the director of skating at the University of Denver, where he learned the ins and outs of show production and enjoyed the potential of the school's 6,500-square-foot arena.

"They gave me the freedom to have a larger budget for a very small skating program. They gave me a lot of creative freedom to learn my art," Shipstad recalled.

He worked with top lighting designers and learned how to craft different looks for a production.

"I wanted every number to have a theme," he said. "I wanted every number to have a different look, not only with the costumes but with the lighting, the creative flow of the show. All those things were extremely important to me. That's where I feel I learned the art of production."

After leaving the University of Denver in 2004, Shipstad moved back to Colorado Springs and continued coaching. In 2007, he founded Shipstad Entertainment and now produces about 12 shows a year, mostly for corporate clients. He feels it's a perfect niche for him, and he's most adept at crafting show themes that work for corporate brands. He also produces some holiday shows, including two fairly large shows in Mexico.

Last year, Shipstad produced a skating show at the Salt Lake City Olympic speed skating oval, which was not easy, as a speed skating oval is only 16 feet wide. This year, he created a show for the NFL kickoff party at the Super Bowl.

"It was a corporate party for 3,000 people for the NFL Experience in this convention space in the football arena," he said. "There was a winter wonderland theme."

The four skaters who performed in that show were Ryan Jahnke, Larry Ibarra, Erica Archambault and Shipstad's daughter, Katie, a two-time medalist at the U.S. junior championships who no longer competes.

His son Tyler, a hockey player, didn't perform in Indianapolis, but he does when called upon.

"My son jumps barrels for me," Shipstad said. "I feel I have a knack for putting on a good show."