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From the factory to Hollywood: Riedell finds supporting role in 'Whip It'

Riedell roller derby skates, like the one being manufactured here, were used in the making of "Whip It." The movie chronicles the world of female roller derby and premiers Friday. "Riedell has been the brand of choice for derby girls," said Riedell official Margie Kulak. Jon Swedien/RiverTowns Group

Local moviegoers might recognize some hometown favorites rolling across the silver screen in the coming weeks.

Riedell Co., which manufactures skates here in Red Wing, sent 55 roller skates to the set of "Whip It," a major motion picture about the world of women's roller derby that opens nationwide Friday.

"Our skates are going to be all over the movie," company official Margie Kulak said.

It's no fluke the film's production crew asked Riedell to provide skates for the film.

"Riedell skates are huge in the roller derby world," said Lindsey Lyford, a member of the Minnesota Roller Girls, an amateur roller derby team based in the Twin Cities.

Roller derby, which peaked and lost much of its popularity after the 1970s, has experienced resurgence in recent years.

Amateur teams have cropped up across the country, and Riedell was quick to act upon the trend.

"They were the first company to recognize roller derby as a market place," Lyford said.

Kulak said the company, well known for its ice skates, saw roller derby's rise in popularity as a way to get its products to a fresh new group.

And while "Whip It" seems likely to draw more people's attention to the sport, the film already has drummed up publicity for Riedell.

The film's stars, Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore, have been photographed wearing Riedell derby skates in a July edition of USA Today and the October issue of the women's magazine Marie Claire. The film's actors also were photographed wearing Riedells in industry trade magazines.

Dan Johnson, Riedell director of manufacturing, said the rise of roller derby has pulled the traditional roller skate off the shelf.

Traditional four-wheeled skates, like the ones used in roller derby, largely went the way of the dodo after faster in-line skates began to dominate in the early 1990s.

But because roller derby embraces retro stylings, the four-wheeled skate has made a comeback, he said. Riedell's derby skates even carry the company's original cursive logo, giving them an old school look.

The company has sought advice from women in the sport to help them design better skates. Riedell invited the Minnesota Roller Girls to the factory, which Johnson said led directly to innovations.

For instance, Riedell's derby skates have a cover protecting their laces because the women often slide on their knees while competing.

The skates are also given extra padding around the Achilles, a suggestion of derby girls.

Furthermore, Kulak and co-owner Paul Riegelman have gone to Women's Flat Track Derby Association events to represent Riedell. WFTDA is a non-profit nationwide league for women's amateur derby teams, including the Minnesota Roller Girls teams.

Kulak attended a regional tournament in Minneapolis two weeks ago and Riegelman will travel last weekend to the league's national tournament in North Carolina.

Lyford said all the attention the company has paid to the sport has inspired loyalty in many derby girls -- which helped make the local skates a natural pick for the film.

"Riedell is very proud of the fact that we were invited to be a part of this movie," Kulak said.