In the run-up to the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, held in February of that year in Lake Placid, New York, the newly built ice arena hosted the official test event, the 1979 Flaming Leaves International (also referred to as “Norton Skate” for the event sponsor, the Norton Company, a manufacturer of abrasive products). The event satisfied the requirement of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that a new facility built for an Olympic Games must first be tested.
Although often referred to as the “first” Skate America, the Flaming Leaves International perhaps should be referred to as the predecessor of Skate America. It was only after the success of the event that the U.S. Figure Skating Association (USFSA, or today called U.S. Figure Skating) pursued holding an annual senior-level, invitational event in the U.S. In 1981, the first competition named Skate America was held, also in Lake Placid. Skate America is now part of the International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating.
With that bit of history, on to the pin that commemorated this important pre-Olympic competition. On a gold-color base, a fiery orange color fills the central flames that burn brightly behind a figure skating pair, in forward crossovers, in blue. The flames also suggest the colorful fall leaves of Upstate New York or the Olympic flame that would be ignited just a few months later. The complementary blue color encircles the 1-1/4″ diameter (3.175 cm) pin and highlights the event name, location, and date: “Norton Skate Lake Placid, N.Y. Sept. 20–23, 1979.” The Norton logo appears to the left of the skaters.
On a gold-color base, a fiery orange color fills the central flames that burn brightly behind a figure skating pair in blue...
The handsome, high-quality pin reflects the design taste of the late-1970s, particularly the rounded, stylized typestyle. According to well-informed sources, the pin was produced in a limited quantity of 250 and quickly sold out at the event. It is a difficult-to-find pin today, more than 40 years after the event was contested.