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Clock is ticking for donors to save Winterfest

HARTFORD – A budget freeze has a Hartford holiday tradition on thin ice.

For the second year in a row, Winterfest is in danger.

There are less than two weeks left for organizers to raise enough money to put on the event. The iQuilt Partnership has to raise $230,000 to operate Winterfest.

So far, about 75 percent of funds needed have been collected and if the full amount is raised by October 30, the rink will start to go up November 1.

Due to cuts in the city’s budget, last year, the rink lost a significant portion of its funding, according to iQuilt Partnership managing director Jackie Mandyck.

Since the city’s financial struggle carried over, the rink is in the same predicament it was in in 2016. Last year, it was saved by a crowdfunding effort from the community.

If it returns this will be the 8th year of the tradition at Bushnell Park highlighted by several weeks of free ice skating, free skate rentals, free lessons on Saturdays, a carousel and even free pictures with Santa.

Mandyck estimates about 40,000 people hit the rink and bring the same amount of family, friends and spectators.

“You’re talking about almost 80,000 people coming into the city of Hartford to enjoy this fabulous time,” she said. “We hope that when people come down that they not only skate but they go out to Hartford’s restaurants, they go out to the Bushnell, they go to the Wadsworth, they go to the science center.”

If the group surpasses its financial goal, it will keep the rink open an extra week, as it did last year. If it collects even more, it will save the funds for 2018.

Mandyck is hopeful the community will pull together as it did last year. So far, over 70 individuals have donated as well as many corporations such as Travelers, LAZ Parking, The Hartford, Niagara Bottling, and more.

“All you’d have to do is see the rink in full operation to know exactly why you should donate,” she said. “The kids, adults, teenagers, having so much fun, this is a free, family fun activity for 40 days in the middle of winter.”

If fundraising efforts are successful, free daily skating, skate rentals, and classes will begin on November 24 and run through January 2nd.

To donate you can click here or mail a check to Winterfest Hartford, c/o The iQuilt Partnership, 31 Pratt Street, 5th Floor, Hatrford, CT 06103.