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Winterfest 2015/2016; Mild Weather and An Enthusiastic Response to Hartford’s 6th Annual Winter Festival Filled with Free Skating and Return of Carousel Rides

(Feb. 4, 2016) During a winter of record-breaking warm weather, Winterfest 2015/2016 ensured that downtown Hartford was the place to be this season. Not even seventeen rainy days kept people from enjoying the free ice skating, skate rentals, and learn-to-skate programs at Hartford’s seasonal outdoor skating rink. This year, Winterfest Hartford hosted 45,015 skaters, provided 567 hours of free skating, and celebrated its 250,000th skater to glide across the ice. The sixth annual winter festival in Bushnell Park opened on November 22 to kick off the holiday season and continued for 63 days, closing on January 24, 2016.

This year’s Winterfest Hartford activities featured a new spin – the return of $1 carousel rides. After being closed for a year of renovations, the historic Bushnell Park Carousel reopened just in time for Winterfest. Winterfest traffic to the carousel increased by thirty-five percent when compared with festival visits before the renovation. This year, more than 14,800 Winterfest visitors enjoyed rides on the vintage wooden horses and enjoyed the warmth of the carousel pavilion, which is now heated and open year-round on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Once again, Winterfest’s holiday lights and music brightened the season for many local families. Proving the holiday spirit was alive and well, approximately 2,000 people visited Santa’s Workshop between November 22 and December 20 for free photos with Santa in the carousel pavilion. Approximately thirty-five percent of Santa’s visitors came from Hartford, but guests traveled from as far away as California, Puerto Rico and France to enjoy the holiday festivities.

“Winterfest is one of Hartford’s great cultural events and brings our region together,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, who joined residents in Bushnell Park for First Night celebrations after his inauguration on January 1, 2016. “It’s great to see people from all over Connecticut and New England joining Hartford residents for the Winterfest activities, along with all the other entertainment Hartford has to offer.” 

Fun special events filled the Winterfest schedule and included Opening Ceremonies, Hartford Wolf Pack Skate Night, HYPE (Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs) Night, BESB (Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind) Skate, Saturday Morning Learn-to-Skate Lessons, Skate with Sonar, First Night, and Bushnell Park's Fire and Ice Night. In addition, the I-84 Hartford Project and CREC Schools hosted a free day of Bushnell Park Carousel rides.

“It is heartwarming to see Winterfest become part of so many local families’ annual winter traditions,” said Winterfest Hartford Event Director Bob Crawford, a former Hartford Whaler and the owner of Champions Skating Center. “Whether it’s a child’s first visit to Santa, first ride on the carousel, or a first opportunity to learn to skate, we are glad to see so many people enjoying Winterfest and making life-long memories here in Hartford.”

Winterfest Hartford is made possible by the generous sponsorship of the City of Hartford, the iQuilt Partnership, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Travelers, United Technologies, The Hartford, UnitedHealth Care, LAZ Parking, Bank of America, Hartford Steam Boiler, Metropolitan District Commission, Reid & Riege, Robinson & Cole, SINA, and many individual donors. A total of $121,500 was raised to cover the costs of the rink’s operation this season.

The iQuilt Partnership works closely with the City of Hartford to produce Winterfest. The iQuilt Plan is a culture-based urban design plan for downtown Hartford. The iQuilt Plan links downtown Hartford’s historic and cultural assets and destinations with a vibrant and innovative pedestrian network. iQuilt’s centerpiece is the GreenWalk, a one-mile chain of parks and plazas connecting the gold-domed Capitol in Bushnell Park to the waterfront of the Connecticut River.

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