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Tarrytown Rollergirl Skates Her Way To A Good Time

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — Tarrytown resident Karen Kuhn—otherwise known as “Dixie Wiskey”—first became acquainted with roller derby while she was participating in a Halloween parade. Ghoulish rollergirls skated near Kuhn while she was leading her kids through the parade.

“I’m kind of looking around … ‘Who are these crazy people on skates?’” she said.

Nearly four years later, roller derby has become an integral part in Kuhn’s life. In addition to being a stay-at-home mom, Kuhn is the Suburbia Roller Derby league president and helps run roller derby tournaments in the region. She’s also a member of the Indian Point Sirens, a local derby team.

“Derby’s a funny animal,” Kuhn said. “It almost becomes your life, your new set of friends. We joke around that our husbands, wives and girlfriends are all derby widows because they lose us to derby. My husband actually started skating himself—he skates in Connecticut—so I sort of have this little derby family.”

Kuhn also has derby neighbors. When an apartment opened up across the street, she grabbed it for two other women in the league: Slash Borden and Grave Robin. They renamed their street “Derby Lane” because at 6:15 p.m., they’re all getting their gear bags into the car so they can drive down to the skating center.

“Now when things slowly open up, I’m trying to get other people in the league to move in so we could just take over,” Kuhn said. “It’d be fun.”

Kuhn says she spends about 20 hours a week working for the league. They also have practice three times a week—although Kuhn says it’s hard for her to attend each one with a husband who also skates and her children.

“It’s a big commitment,” she said. “But it’s worth it.”

Roller derby isn’t quite what you see in the movies, according to Kuhn. The movie Whip It showcased the camaraderie the women feel, Kuhn said, but they don’t have as much physical action. Kuhn noted that roller derby was “intense in a competitive way and not a wrestling way.”

“We don’t trip each other, we don’t punch each other,” Kuhn said. “There are rules.”

Her favorite part of the sport is how challenging it is. The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association makes its own rules, which the skaters vote on. Kuhn says this causes the game to shift a little bit, “So you’re always on your toes.”

“You’re playing offense and defense at the same time,” she said. “Things change, people come up with new strategies. So it’s never dull. You’re always challenged.”

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