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Thanksgiving night will be the official opening of Farmington’s newest winter attraction — ­­the new ice skating rink located next to the public library.

Chris Engler, director of the Convention and Tourism Board, spearheaded the plan to install a temporary public rink for area ice skaters to enjoy during the winter season.

“About a year and a half ago, the tourism board had just finished our plans for the Blues, Brews and BBQ,” she said. “We were talking about the Downtown Winter Wonderland, how wonderful it was and how it drew people to downtown, how we could enhance that as well as the parade.

“We saw that we had the funds, we thought we would put it downtown, and with Winter Wonderland, and Krekeler’s Parade and the downtown stores staying open, and all the beautiful Christmas decorations the city had, it would be a nice attraction.”

Although a natural ice rink is considered preferable, in this case Engler noted that maintenance costs would be prohibitive. Interlocking solid polymer panels create an artificial ice surface that can use normal metal-bladed ice skates.

“I knew from other festivals that they did these festival rinks with artificial ice that you could rent and they bring it in and set it up,” she said. “When I started researching, I found this company, they have had professional hockey teams test this new surface that you can shave on it like real ice. It is supposed to be maintenance free. You don’t have to have a Zamboni or refrigeration.

"Natural ice would be wonderful, but when people start looking at the cost is to maintain, it’s not just the initial capital to put it up, but to maintain it is unbelievable. People need to be aware that it is not real ice, so it’s not going to skate exactly the same at first. They say that once it’s broken in, you can’t tell the difference.”

There is no charge to use the rink and skaters can use their own ice skates or more than 100 pairs of skates are available to rent for $2 per pair for the evening. The skates are rounded at the toes, to prevent figure skating of any kind, however, they work well on the polymer surface. Assistance walkers are provided for children to use to learn skating and help keep their balance. The plan is for the skate rental and skate sharpening shed to be manned by local nonprofit organizations that can also sell refreshments for a fundraising activity on that night.

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“I thought we would have trouble getting volunteer groups,” Engler said. “We actually have a waiting list now.”

The rink will be open for the general public. For now there will not be any reservations for special groups or team organizations. At 56 feet by 112 feet in size, the rink is designed to comfortably hold 50-60 skaters.

“Originally we were looking at half that size, we just felt confident that it was going to be popular, we went ahead and doubled the size,” she said. “We think it will be a nice draw with the picnic tables and benches, it’s a great way to bring people into town, it’s more of a social thing than anything.”

Engler thanked the Convention and Tourism Board for their acceptance of the idea and support in launching the project.

Farmington Mayor Larry Forsythe weighed in on the construction of the rink.

“It’s very nice. I’m glad that we could have this opportunity, courtesy of the tourism board, to present this to the citizens of Farmington for their fun and enjoyment. We are trying to provide more opportunities for the citizens to enjoy themselves, especially in wintertime.”

It will open for the public on Thanksgiving night. The times will be 5-9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday will be noon-9 p.m., and Sunday noon-6 p.m.

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Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at mmarberry@farmingtonpressonline.com

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