Portlanders of all ages show up to regular community event organized by local Francesca Berrini
On Thursday nights in Portland’s NE Boise neighborhood, anyone can take part in one of the city’s biggest secrets – Portland Secret Roller Disco.
The elementary school playground turned roller skating palooza is a majestical find. In the corner of the basketball court playing a live set is local DJ Gregory T. Skaters, dressed in an ’80s tracksuit and glitter. Everyone spins in circles around the schoolyard in bliss.
The humble beginnings of the roller disco started during the COVID-19 pandemic. Francesca Berrini and fellow Portlanders collaborated for roller skating amid the George Floyd protests in June 2020. Most of Berrini’s friends at this time were mothers stuck at home who wanted to leave the house.
“We started at the top of a parking garage downtown, near the Justice Center,” Berrini said. “We would skate down the parking garage and take an elevator back up. Eventually, there started to be a few too many people, and the security guards said, ‘You can’t be throwing a party every week.'”
Despite getting widespread attention from the Portland community, Berrini initially intended for the disco to be kept secret. For this reason, Berrini christened her new group the “Secret Roller Disco.”
“As more people started getting vaccinated, more people started coming out,” Berrini said. “People we did not know would know where we would be. They would hear the music and be excited to see what was happening. It started to grow a little bit, and finally, we decided to have social media to tell people the guidelines.”
Fellow skater Itzel Reyes started regularly attending the disco this year when her friend Katie invited her last April. Reyes and her friends enjoy playing roller hockey at the disco. Originally from Mexico City, Reyes finds solace in the U.S. with the help of the Portland roller skating community.
“It is difficult to find your family again in a new country. Skating and Secret Roller Disco have been a big part for me in that aspect,” Reyes said. “I have found really great people and have connected with them on a deep level.”
No roller disco night is the same. Locations vary, including a closed-down artistic space in Jaja PDX to a closed-down Marshall’s in Lloyd Center. The Secret Roller Disco is the perfect getaway for Lewis & Clark students. Everything is free except for merchandise.
Rain or shine, the Secret Roller Disco is held every Thursday, and occasionally Saturdays, from 7 to 9 p.m. Updates on location, theme and rental skate availability are posted on their Instagram @secretrollerdisco every week.