Winterfest kicks off with chilly temps, warm spirits

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HARTFORD -- The turkey's been cooked and packed away, now hundreds flock to Bushnell Park to play.

On Friday, city officials opened up Winterfest, downtown's free ice skating rink, for its fifth season.

Mayor Pedro Segarra (D) said he expects 500,000 people to visit the family-friendly rink this year. It is open to anyone, a message city organizers hope spreads through Hartford and beyond.

"They're people coming from Westport or Greenwich and they're like, 'I didn't realize downtown was so vibrant and Hartford is amazing with all the restaurants and all of the activity.' So, that's good to hear because I know that, but it's good to hear other people say it," said Kristina Newman-Scott, director of Marketing, Events and Cultural Affairs for Hartford.

Resident Henry Biffle keeps bringing his daughter back for a similar reason.

"I come here because I like to see, you know, the people of Hartford or the citizens of Connecticut come here and enjoy Hartford in a positive way," Biffle said.

In addition to those feel-good vibes, Winterfest feels good for people's wallets.

Skating and skate rentals are free, making the activity a no-brainer for Friday night.

"It's a good atmosphere for everybody to come together and you know, just enjoy the holidays and enjoys this. You know, Hartford. It's something to do on the weekend and stuff," Subrian Ward, who came with his wife and 4-year-old daughter.

Skaters or would-be skaters can participate in free lessons, too, which is what brings Xiana Figueroa, 10, back year after year.

"Because to enjoy the people skating, where I can learn," she said.

Friday night, Santa kicked off the 2014-2015 Winterfest season with a special pyrotechnic display. Fireworks glittered in the crowd's eyes, that were dazzled afterwards by performances by local figure skaters. The night began with caroling by a local high school group.

Winterfest will be open daily through February.

For more information on Winterfest including hours of operation, click here.

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