By Pete Zamplas- Life is going around in circles — for plenty of fun — on a skating rink in Downtown Hendersonville for the rest of this week and on New Year’s Day.
The synthetic ice 40-by-30-foot rink is on part of the Visitor’s Information Center parking lot, at 201 S. Main St.
The rink will be open daily and even on Saturday, New Year’s Eve for the usual 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Hours are 1-5 p.m. on New Year’s Day, as they were on Christmas. The rink has stayed open late such as to 9:30 p.m., when customer traffic keeps flowing and volunteers stay on.
Night skating has extra illumination from fire at a pit. Marshmallow s’mores are roasted in that pit. Other concessions include snacks and hot chocolate, to further raise money and as part of local Home for the Holidays activities. There are no food trucks, to avoid competing with local eateries so they might benefit from people visiting downtown, organizer Mia Freeman said.
Some stride mightily, on the synthetic ice. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
This unique holiday family activity treat is a benefit for the non-profit America In Bloom Committee. The Ohio-based national awards program rates communities on “what they do with what they have.” The skating is organized by the group’s local head, Freeman, a Hendersonville merchant.
The Henderson County Tourism Development Authority paid for three-fourths of the rink and equipment rental totaling over $18,000, she said, while she and her group covered the rest.
TDA was a catalyst to launch the program, but plans to step aside next year, she said. Thus, it will be riskier for Freeman and the Bloom group to go alone and she will weigh it largely on this trial run’s turnout.
A bigger rink might cost nearly double that, she said, but is an option if there is an overwhelming response to this trial run. Freeman said ice hockey players from the area called asking if they could play the sport on the rink. She might allow for that next year, needing a larger rink than the one used now which holds 40 skaters at a time or in addition to it if cost-effective enough.
Some fashion their own style of skating, on the rink downtown. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Two hour time slots sold out to capacity, in the first two days, Freeman said. Other times it was half-full, with plenty of space for skaters to do laps and avoid each other. Attendance was 125 for the first day and second day as of 7 p.m.
The fee is $8 per adults and $5 per children, for a 45-minute session often starting at the top of the hour. That covers rental of skates, or else booties for those wanting to walk on the surface but not skate. Freeman said most skaters did one session. She hopes many return during the activity’s two-week run.
The EZ Glide all-weather synthetic ice is polymer — a thin plastic that skate blades can penetrate for traction better than actual ice — topped by slick silicon for gliding which is reapplied between sessions, volunteer Michael Arrowood noted. He helps coordinate special events for TDA. He has sprayed snow-like suds onto skaters, as they gathered to him near the end of their session. The surface can still be skated on during rain, and is not chilled.
More than 30 volunteers also help in such ways as cleaning skate blades, handling tickets and skate rentals, and getting waiver forms signed for youths younger than 18. The nearby Wells Fargo bank branch is among businesses with some workers volunteering, such as with tickets.
Falls lead to laughs, for skaters of various ages. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Andrew Schultz, 12, was among prolific skaters Dec. 21, the second day. He easily changed directions. He learned skating basics while living in D.C. He said the local rink access “helps you learn to skate better.”
Metal fencing borders the rectangular rink. To deter people sneaking onto the rink after hours, it has security lighting and extra police patrol, Freeman noted. Volunteers monitor rink behavior. She is impressed that as of press time, rink decorum was strong as skaters did not purposely smash into each other.
Those who slipped on their own and fell typically grinned, and tried again to learn to skate. Many skaters too breaks during a session, to pace energy.
The two-week attraction began Dec. 20. It is typically busiest from 3 p.m. on, Freeman said, but is actively used most of the day with children out of school. A slow hour of 10 a.m. is promoted for groups; the fee is $1 off per person with 10 or more in the group.
EZ Glide is made by Ice Rink Engineering and Mfg., LLC, of Greenville, S.C., which is among few nearby cities that have skating during these holidays, and has shipped its rinks to New York City and also L.A. for year-round use, Freeman said.
Freeman owns two downtown shops, near the Historic Courthouse. Mia’s Marketplace features “vintage collectibles” in 14 shops, and is at 241 N. Main (698-4600). Nearby is her Black, White and Jeans boutique (595-9818).
She acted in Tom Orr’s historic play Unwrapping Local History, portraying a townsperson in various decades of the last century and narrating about Brock’s as a teen hangout in the Fifties.