Christmas in downtown Tampa as Winter Village ice rink opens

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TAMPA While her teenage daughter and 6-year-old son glided effortlessly across the outdoor ice rink at Curtis Hixon Park on Friday, Danielle Engram, 35, stood nervously on her rented blades.This would be the lifelong Tampa resident’s first time on the ice.”Hopefully, I don’t bust my butt,” she said. “But if I do, I have a little more cushion than my daughter.”

Hundreds of first- and longtime skaters lined up Friday night for the annual opening of downtown Tampa’s Winter Village and its centerpiece — an outdoor ice-skating rink courtesy of the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

The long line for skate time was pretty normal, said 19-year-old Xavier Nazir, a recent Sickles High School graduate who has worked at the village for four years. Nazir said in the past he has sold anywhere from 500 to 1,000 skating tickets a day.

Most children and adults kept a tight hold on the rink’s rim, but that didn’t stop many from falling and taking others down with them.

Christina Newcomb, 44, said skating isn’t at all like riding a bike — you can’t just pick it back up.

“I used to skate all the time when I lived in Fairbanks, Alaska,” said Newcomb, who made one loop around the rink and got off the ice. “But it’s been 20 years. I almost fell a few times.”

In contrast, her husband, Jose De Jesus, who grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, fared much better on the ice with the couple’s three children.

“We’ve been coming to this for a while,” De Jesus said. “It is how we start our holiday season.”

Although the temperature stayed above 67 degrees Friday night, large generators kept the ice at minus 5 degrees, said Kelsy Van Camp, director of marking and communications for the Downtown Partnership.

Just before the rink opened, children took photos with Tampa Bay Lightning mascot ThunderBug and Raymond, his counterpart with the Tampa Bay Rays. Mayor Bob Buckhorn also posed for photos and helped with the opening ceremonies.

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