Sac State student’s dreams come true as Disney on Ice performer


Emily Rabasto - The State Hornet

Sac State graduate student Samantha Mapes skates at Skatetown Ice Arena in Roseville. Mapes, who was in Disney on Ice for three years, shows off one of her favorite moves.

Thomas Frey

The lights were out at TD Garden in Boston as fans waited anxiously to see their favorite Disney characters and stories brought to life on ice.

The night before, the Boston Celtics, making their playoff push, entered the building to a standing ovation. The next day, Samantha Mapes received the same treatment as the institutional NBA team, gliding on the ice to a cheering crowd.

The lights singled in on Mapes, a current Sacramento State graduate student who was skating on the ice portraying Tinker Bell as part of the Disney on Ice troupe.

After years of skating, Mapes, a Sacramento native who was 21 at the time, was met by an entire arena filled with children and parents, screaming in anticipation and excitement.

It was a long time coming for Mapes. She had gone from watching Disney on Ice shows growing up to leading the show. She performed in 11 countries and 34 states over three years, but her journey to that level wasn’t an easy one.

Growing up, she said there were times she wanted to quit skating. The sacrifices to do something she loved started to mount. She had just gotten a kitten, and she wasn’t able to see her family as often as she liked, but she said at the end of the day, the moments she experienced skating were unforgettable.

Traveling the world and seeing children’s dreams come true right in front of her eyes when she skated onto the ice helped her cope against wanting to quit.

“It was dark and I came out, and then all the lights came on,” Mapes said. “I was spinning and you can just hear the crowd going crazy. I’m getting chills just thinking about it.”

Mapes has worked for that moment since she was in first grade, when her grandmother gave her a tutu and bought her first skating lessons.

She performed in groups and began taking private lessons soon after.

“I love watching her skate on a struggling day or a successful day I love it equally,” said Mapes’ mother, Susie Parker. “The reason [why] is to watch her fortitude. I loved watching her get up. And each time she got up, she got up with more composure than the last time.”

By the time she was in high school, she was lacing up her $1,200 ice skates and practicing as much as high school football players buckling up their chin straps to step onto the gridiron.

Story continues below photo gallery.

Skating is an expensive sport. The average private lesson at Skatetown in Roseville is about $40 for 30 minutes with additional ice time at about $12 an hour to practice on your own, according to their website.

“It’s hard when you don’t have exorbitant amounts of money to spend on everything, but my family was always really supportive. They made sure that if I wanted to do it, I would still be able to do it,” Mapes said. “I would just have like one less lesson a week or skate only an hour a day if we needed to cut corners. I did everything, but I couldn’t quit skating.”

Mapes said that many people think skating looks easy when really, it’s mentally exhausting.

“You have to look pretty while you do it, and make it look like it’s not hard,” Mapes said. “This is a hidden type of difficulty. You have to have grace, you have to be good and you have to execute everything perfectly. ”

That was especially true for Mapes when she tried out for Disney on Ice late in 2013. Mapes said that everything had to be perfect. The show was performing at Sleep Train Arena, the former home of the Sacramento Kings, when she decided to try out.

She was called back and asked to start almost immediately. When she arrived to start, she said she was thrust into two months’ worth of rehearsals.

About two months later at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada, Mapes made her on-ice debut. She played as one of the napkins for the song “Be Our Guest” from “Beauty and the Beast.”

“It was a really magical experience, so I just couldn’t wait to get out there and share the love of skating and Disney with everyone,” Mapes said.

Those moments were what Mapes lived for. She had to give up a lot to portray a Disney on Ice character.

She stayed enrolled at Sac State in early 2014 studying communications until it became a challenge. She was taking all online classes, but with the busy travel days and performing four days a week, she wanted to rest and sight see on her off days.

She decided to take a break from school and returned to Sac State after her Disney on Ice career ended in 2016.

Mapes said it was also difficult to be away from her friends, family and pets while touring. Having to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter away from her family each year took a toll.

Although she was gone for the majority of the year, she was still able to see her family and friends when the tour stopped in California cities like Fresno, Bakersfield, San Jose and Sacramento.

“They saw me start from the bottom, and then I was a princess,” Mapes said. “My mom says she is proud of me for a lot of things. Not just for skating, but that she is happy that I stuck to it for long. I was able to turn something that frustrated me so much when I was competing to something that was joyful.”