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Hartford's Winterfest Ends, Attracts More Visitors Than Last Year


January 17, 2013

HARTFORD Although it ran nearly a month shorter this season, the city's annual Winterfest celebration drew more skaters and spectators than last year.

The event has attracted between 53,000 and 54,000 skaters and at least 100,000 visitors, Director Bob Crawford said Thursday. He estimated that by Monday, when the festival closes for the season, the number of skaters would top out around 60,000.

"We're extremely happy," he said. "We've proved that this is now a permanent activity in the downtown Hartford inventory of cultural and recreational activities."

Before the event, "very few walked through the park at lunchtime," Crawford said. "Now people will walk through just to see the activity, even for a few seconds. People who would have never thought to go into the park are there at night now because it's lit up and looks nice."

Last year, a total of 50,000 skaters used the rink, which was open a month longer.

The event, which features free ice skating, visits with Santa Claus, carousel rides and horse-drawn wagon tours, opened Nov. 23. This is the third year Winterfest was held at Bushnell Park, though in its first year there it was known as The Festival of Light.

The ice rink has expanded each year to accommodate more skaters, this season reaching 100 feet by 100 feet. About 175 people are able to skate at a time.

The city created a permanent structure for the rink this year by pouring a concrete pad near the Pump House in the park. The concrete will serve as the foundation for the skating rink each winter, and for other activities during the summer, Crawford said.

Winterfest ran a month shorter this season, organizers have said, because the number of skaters dipped after Martin Luther King Jr. Day in previous years. Last year's event ran through Feb. 20.

As the festival grows, Crawford said he would like to incorporate more winter activities as weather permits. He said he envisions Winterfest as a scaled-down version of the winter carnivals held in St. Paul, Minn., and Quebec City.

The festival was paid for by a combination of corporate sponsorships, private donors and city money. Organizers met their fundraising goal, bringing in about $317,000, said Julio Concepcion, vice president of Hartford partnerships for MetroHartford Alliance, who is working with iQuilt on the event.

About $1,500 came from individual donors, $50,000 from the city and the rest from corporate sponsors like Travelers, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, The Hartford Financial Services Group and LAZ Parking

Public skating hours are noon to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday with a special skating show from 6 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday. A closing ceremony that includes remarks from Mayor Pedro Segarra will be held Monday at 6 p.m. In case of snow, the closing ceremony will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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