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Faith in Lights on Thin Ice

By Kerri Provost

December 09, 2010

Weeks ago, the City’s Director of Communications sent a flurry of emails regarding the Festival of Light. Short attention spans combined with a scheduling disaster and misinformation resulted in outrage from visitors who wanted more for the price of free. Now, the press releases about the next phase of the Festival of Light seem to be only slightly more tempered. Already, there has been one update to the schedule and details. The most recent is below, and if you want to keep up with any additional changes, visit the City of Hartford website:

The Hartford Festival of Light® expands with the addition of an ice rink at Bushnell Park. It opens on Friday, December 10th at 4:00 p.m. after a brief ribbon cutting ceremony.

Here’s the rundown for Friday, December 10th for “Lights, Skating Santa” Winter Festivities:

4:00 p.m.: Mayor Pedro E. Segarra will host the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 45’x 90’ ice rink that holds up to 75 skaters at a time. The Hartford Public High School Show Choir will perform and there will be special appearances from Santa and Pucky the Whale.

Immediately afterwards: Skating opens to the public until 6:00 p.m. (Colorful wristbands will be used as needed on demand to accommodate the crowd. Skating rotation time will come in about 45-minute cycles. Thanks to generous sponsorship, ice time and skate rentals are free to the public through January 6th.)

6:00-7:00 p.m.: International skaters will perform

7:00- 9:00 p.m.: Public skating resumes

As part of the expansion programming, on December 10th and 11th, special additional artistic theatrical lighting projections by Herring Media Group can be seen. Please note that the rink and the park will continue to be lit until January 6th.

Beginning December 11th and continuing until January 6th, public skating hours begin at 11:00 a.m. every day. Here is the detailed schedule (In order to keep the ice resurfaced, there will be ice maintenance time throughout the day as needed. Closure would be up to 15 minutes):

* Monday –Thursday 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

* Friday 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. (PLEASE NOTE REVISION) with Champions Amateur Skating show 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.

* Saturday: 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.; 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. with Champions Amateur Skating show 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

* Sunday: 11:00 a.m. -. 8:00 p.m.

School Vacation week:

* Monday – Thursday December 27th – 30th: 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

* Friday December 31st (First Night): 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. with Champions Amateur Skating show 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.


Holiday skating hours:

* Christmas Eve (December 24th) and Christmas Day (December 25th) 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

* New Years Eve – First Night (December 31st) until 1:00 a.m.

* New Years Day (January 1st) 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Just to be clear:

Lights: Marc Herring’s artistic lighting show will be held December 10th and 11th. This is showcase lighting on the ice rink with light projections on the buildings and trees surrounding the park and a lighted Christmas tree in the center of the park. Included in the show will be a projection of historic Hartford scenes on the outside of the Pump House Gallery. After December 11th, the rink and park will still continue to be lit (minus the additional projections).

Skating: Every Friday and Saturday between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. there will be skating shows. Other skating times are open for the public.

Santa: Children may visit Santa in the Pump House on December 10th following the opening ceremony until 7:00 p.m. and on December 11th and 12th from 2:00 – 5:00 pm. Santa will return with Mrs. Claus on Friday, December 17th from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Carousel.

Family Fun: The Bushnell Park Carousel will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 2:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Enjoy refreshments, face painting, balloons and more!

Give the Gift of Holiday Cheer: If you are able, please donate a new, unwrapped toy to the Marines’ Toys for Tots drive for a needy child. Collection boxes are available at the rink, the Carousel, and the Pump House.

Find Warmth and Fellowship: You are cordially invited to take a break from the cold to enjoy free cocoa and cookies provided by Center Church. These will be served in the ground level dining room of the Center Church House, 60 Gold Street, on Fridays December 10th and 17th from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

First Night: Bushnell Park will also be a hub of activity on First Night (December 31st) for extended skating hours, and free public skating will continue to be available during the holiday weekends (see above schedule).

This year’s Hartford Festival of Light® “Lights, Skating, Santa” is a city-wide collaborative event, presented by the City of Hartford, the Greater Hartford Arts Council, The Bushnell, The Connecticut Whale, and Champions Skating Center. Thanks to funding from many of the region’s corporations and foundations, the Hartford Festival of Light® will offer a full season of enjoyment for everyone, not just one night. Best of all, it’s free.

For more information, please go to www.letsgoarts.org. For more information on the Mayor’s role, please contact Sarah Barr, Director of Communications, (860) 550-3174 (cell).

There is, in fact, an ice rink in the park. You can see a picture for yourself above. It’s near the Pump House Gallery and hard to miss. Allegedly it can occupy up to 75 skaters at a time, which seems like the makings of a very crowded ice rink.

Birds be damned, several apparently non-historic trees near the carousel are swaddled in small, traditional lights in the park. This is in addition to an abundance of “artistic” lights. As for the claim that birds and squirrels might get electrocuted by chewing through wires, well, there happen to be birds and squirrels on Constitution Plaza who may nibble on the wires there. Perhaps the wildlife on that concrete island are of a hardier variety. What would be interesting is to know about the effect of loud generators on the park wildlife.

Anyhow, contacting event organizers before loading up the station wagon with three kids and the dog is recommended if one has concerns about the timing of events. On one level, I can understand how children might have been truly upset by the kick off of this season’s Festival of Light, because, they are children. But the griping from adults is embarrassing to listen to and also speaks to incredible privilege that some have to allocate the time to make such non-stop complaints. Something truly kvetch-worthy is the fact that there are families in this area that can not afford appropriate clothing for winter, need assistance paying heating bills, and lack health care. You know, real problems.

While there were obvious mistakes made in the start of the Festival of Light (and the ability for some to just say, afterwards, “we messed up”) credit should be given for people attempting to do something different and creative, rather than expecting a tired traditional display on a plaza with many visibly vacant buildings (and a demolished building) to continue to lure people (and their debit cards) into Hartford.

P.S. There are other holidays that residents celebrate and observe besides Christmas. It would be nice to see these honored appropriately.

Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford. To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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