2010: Holiday Light Festival Moves From Plaza To Park, Adds Skating Rink

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Mayor Pedro Segarra, giving more details about moving the Festival Of Light holiday display from Constitution Plaza to Bushnell Park after 47 years, said Wednesday that the park offers a more central location for visitors and better access to downtown businesses.

"The idea is to invigorate the event and attract surrounding communities," Segarra said as he stood near the Pump House Gallery on the east side of the park. About 10 yards to the north, a rough outline of a 100-by-35-foot skating rink - a new feature of the festival this year - was spray-painted on the grass.

The skating rink, which will open Dec. 10, will accommodate about 75 skaters at a time. Skating will be free and skates will be provided at no charge.

The festival itself will start Nov. 26 at 5 p.m. at the XL Center downtown, where Santa Claus, aboard a Zamboni, will lead a procession south on Trumbull Street to the park for a lighting ceremony scheduled to begin at about 5:45 p.m.

Segarra, without offering details, said the new holiday lighting display will be "modernistic."

"We want you to be awed," he said.

He said the opening ceremony will include free hot chocolate and a U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots drive.

Segarra said he also hopes to incorporate Constitution Plaza into the festival, possibly with lighting of its own this year or next year. "I understand Constitution Plaza is highly being missed," he said. "I don't think [both venues] need to be mutually exclusive."

Bob Crawford, president and chief operating officer of Whalers Sports and Entertainment and the Connecticut Whale hockey team, said the skating rink will be opened later during the festival in an effort to avoid any unseasonably warm weather in November. Previous attempts to have a skating rink in the park have been plagued by warm weather that melted ice or caused poor skating conditions.

He said the rink, which will feature 5 to 6 inches of ice, should stay frozen even if air temperatures reach 60 degrees. The rink will be open Sunday to Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 to 9 p.m.

A skating demonstration will be given on synthetic ice on opening night.

The Hartford Parking Authority will offer free parking at the Morgan Street, MAT and Church Street garages after 5 p.m. on opening night and downtown restaurants will offer dining discounts. More details are available at www.hartfordparking.com.

The city's Star Shuttle will operate and more parking will be available in the state lot south of The Bushnell. Parking spaces for the handicapped will be reserved around Bushnell Park.

The skating rink will be open until Three Kings Day, Jan. 6.

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