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Raleigh’s Winterfest Brings Season’s Cheer to the Capital

Since snow is not an annual occurrence in the Triangle, Raleigh is bringing something very close. Raleigh’s Winterfest will still bring the sights and sounds of winter to residents and visitors beginning next month.

This December, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance will hold the AT&T Raleigh Winterfest, a celebration of the season, taking place in the heart of the state capital.

The ongoing event features an outdoor ice skating rink and will include a long list of events for families beginning Saturday, Dec. 4. Two months’ of programming will take place near the AT&T Raleigh Winterfest Ice Rink, located in City Plaza at the southern end of the 400 block of Fayetteville Street.
Winterfest, which last year drew 20,000 visitors, began as an idea to expand the Mayor’s tree-lighting ceremony, said Brandi Barnhart, Public Space Manager with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. “The [Downtown Raleigh Alliance] felt that with the opening of City Plaza, Raleigh’s newest attraction, in October of 2009, was the perfect opportunity,” she said. Last year, visitors from 50 different cities came to Winterfest, a number that could grow this year with the expanding lineup of performances.

“We have a great lineup of national and local talent on the main stage for the opening night kick-off on December 4,” Barnhart said.

The opening events, which are free, will take place from 4 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 4, but the skating rink will be open until 11 p.m. It includes Santa’s Village, ice carving, sleigh rides, a local crafter and artisan market, a trackless train and more.
The ice rink, which holds 140 skaters at once has expanded to 45′ by 90′ feet this year. This will indeed remain the centerpiece of Winterfest. Winterfest concludes on Jan. 30, 2011, after Raleigh hosts the NHL All-Star Game, played at the RBC Center.

“Ice skating is receiving a lot of attention in N.C. this year with the U.S. Figure Skating Championship taking place in Greensboro and the NHL All Star Game in Raleigh,” Barnhart said.

Volunteers are needed for the opening events and throughout Winterfest. To become involved in the events, contact Brandi Barnhart with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance at brandibarnhart@downtownraleigh.org .

Cost for admission during the events is $8, which includes skate rental. For weather updates and a weekly schedule, call (919) 821-6984. For more information arranging private parties at the skating rink, or for more on Winterfest events, visit http://www.godowntownraleigh.com/raleighwinterfest/general_info.htm.

*Photography by Craig Carpenter of Luster Studios

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