HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Hartford’s holiday tradition is back! Friday marked the start of Winterfest at Bushnell Park.

This is the 12th year The iQuilt Partnership has hosted the event. It happens daily through January 8th.

“One of those memorable days where you come out with your family and enjoy the winter festivities,” says Hartford Resident Randall Stone. “Kickstart the holiday season.”

Families can lace up their skates and hit the ice for free! News 8 spoke to families from near and far on Friday with some coming from California, New Jersey, and Wisconsin and others right down the street in Hartford.

“I never miss a Winterfest,” said Stone.

Many children today were making the capital city home to a new holiday experience.

“Trying to learn how to skate because this is my first time,” said New Jersey Resident Jamilla Dixon. “I hold onto the railing.”

“It’s our first time ice skating, first time out of state,” said Shyann Lackershire, Wisconsin Resident. “I did fall a little bit.”

The event brings thousands to Hartford for free ice skating, free photos with Santa, two-dollar carousel rides, and more!

“I refer to Winterfest as the magic of Hartford,” said Executive Director of The iQuilt Partnership, Jackie Mandyk. “When you come down you’ll see the pure joy on a lot of people’s faces and I think that’s what it’s all about enjoying and having a lot of fun during the holiday season.”

Winterfest is expected to bring around 35,000 people to downtown Hartford.
Mandyk told News 8 the crowds also give nearby businesses a boost just in time for the busiest shopping weekend of the year including small business Saturday.

“Not only come to Winterfest but then they add one, come to a Wolfpack game, go to a Bushnell event, go to the Wadsworth Festival of Trees or just hop in and see one of our great restaurants for lunch,” said Mandyk.

The IQuilt Partnership raised $250,000 allowing this event to be free for families. They say the opening day was busy but expect the next six weekends to be packed.

The rink opens at 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.