HARTFORD-- The sixth annual Winterfest in Hartford kicked off Sunday night.
The annual festival features an ice skating rink, carousel rides, and Santa's workshop all in Bushnell Park throughout the holiday season. Winterfest Hartford will be open for free skating, daily through January 22nd.
The night's festivities began with music and remarks from the city’s mayor, Pedro Segarra, along with Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy-- this is the first year the festival started before Thanksgiving day.
"It's kinda scary, because I fall and then I try to get back up again, but it's fun," said Karina Falcon, who went to the Bushnell Park ice rink to try skating with her family.
The free outdoor skating rink sees tens of thousands of ice skaters each year. Many are first timers like Naveen Sehrauut and his son, both moved to United States seven months ago.
"It`s great, amazing for me. It`s a great experience," Sehrauut said.
The outdoor rink features free skating and skate rentals, and free learn-to-skate programs.
Bob Crawford, former Hartford Whaler and owner of the Champions skating center says the rink has grown in size since last year, and now attracts people from all over the state.
"It never ceases to amaze me the number of people that want to try skating for the first time, and once they do-- they come back," Crawford said.
Guests can also visit Santa's workshop at the newly renovated Bushnell Park carousel, where they can have a photo taken a photo with Santa Claus, ride the carousel and make crafts.
The new 800 sq. ft space adjacent to the carousel also features a Christmas display, which used to be in the G. Fox & Company department store.
Jackie Mandyck, Managing Director of IQuilt said about 25 donated items make up the display, including a horse, the stagecoach. Mandyck said 20 other of the donated items will be going up in windows all over downtown in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
The ice rink will also be accepting donations of winter clothes and skates for those in need.
For more information on Winterfest events and attractions, click here.
The skating rink is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, except for holidays. It will be open from noon to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, from noon to midnight on New Year's Eve and from noon to 8 p.m. on New Year's Day.