With the snip of a ribbon, dozens of skaters scrambled onto the new Bushnell Park ice rink Friday, marking the start of free skating that is set to run through Jan. 6.
"I've already tried out the ice rink," Mayor Pedro Segarra said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. "It's been 37 years since I've skated and I'm still in one piece, so it's doable."
Segarra, who came up with the idea for the rink, said he envisioned it as something for youngsters to do after school or on weekends.
"I was thinking about keeping them out of other activities that are not as positive," he said.
The opening of the rink comes two weeks after the start of the city's Festival of Light, a long-running tradition that this year moved its opening ceremony from Constitution Plaza to Bushnell Park. Some people left feeling disappointed by what they described as an underwhelming light show.
But spirits appeared high on Friday as children and parents waited their turns to hit the ice.
"It's very exciting because we've never had this here before," said Carmen Perez, a Hartford resident who brought her two daughters, 7-year-old Destiny Gonzalez and 10-year-old Stephanie Gonzalez, to the rink.
"When we want to see this we usually have to go to New York, to Rockefeller Center," she said.
Constructing the 90-by-50 foot rink was a five-week process, said Bob Crawford, who owns several ice rinks in the state and coordinated operations for the Hartford rink. The structure can accommodate about 70 people at a time, he said.
"It turned out fantastic, especially for having to construct everything from scratch," Crawford said.
The rink's opening on Friday featured an ice show from 6 to 7 p.m. in which amateur skaters performed. Skating and skate rentals are free.
About 300 pairs of skates, donated by a corporate sponsor, are available to rent. The rink will be open through Jan. 6.
"This is about creating a mood," Segarra said. "Hartford needs a new mood."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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