Arena staff and a few volunteers set to work early Tuesday morning, and by that evening Victor Kraatz Arena had been transformed into the Parksville tradition that is the Winter Wonderland On Ice.
This is the ninth straight year Oceanside Place has hosted the ambitious Yuletide tribute, which combines lighting and displays for the feeling of skating on an outdoor pond, and organizers are expecting big turnouts as always.
“It’s going good, really good,” arena programmer Val McNutt said with a smile before heading off to help out with something else when The News stopped by on Tuesday.
Arena staffer Mike Chestnut was all smiles from high above in his lift while he was hanging the snowflakes with care, Britney Slade was a vision of patience as she untangled strings of lights, and local female hockey standout Marissa Jordan was up to her ears in fir trees there for a while and she didn’t mind a bit. Skate attendant Dean Bull was overseeing the reindeer, and figure skaters Justine Elves and Hilary Harris were clearly pleased to be playing the part of Santa’s little helpers.
“I’ve seen them (setting up) before, so I thought this year I’m going to volunteer to help out, I mean I play hockey here all the time so why not,” Taylor Klassen, 20, said from atop the step ladder while hanging lights along the end glass, then chuckled and agreed, “it’s easy to get into the Christmas spirit in these surroundings.”
There were about 17 people pitching in on Tuesday, and according to Val, it takes approximately 150 people hours to put up the displays, “plus months of preparations. There are 100’s of strings of lights,” she said when asked for some insight into what goes into the display, adding “each year more are purchased as we gradually replace old strings with energy efficient LED lights. Donations of display items come in yearly and help make it more efficient to keep changing the displays slightly.”
New to the Winter Wonderland this year is a penguin display with plenty of pop created by the Ballenas Secondary School art students.
“It is a beautiful display combining a mural background with a 3-D effect of active penguin cutouts,” said Val.
In 2011, over 4,000 skaters took to the Winter Wonderland ice over 11 days.
“Between schools, private rentals and public skate sessions, we are booked solid morning to night. Our biggest day last year was Dec. 15 and we had over 670 skaters that day,” said McNutt.
Over 500 skaters turned out on Wednesday for the official unveiling of this year’s Winter Wonderland.
Highlights include: Tim Hortons Free Admission Skates — Sat., Dec. 17 and Sun, Dec. 18 from 2-3:30 p.m., and the Parksville Lions Free Family Skate on Sunday, Dec. 18 from 12:15 – 1:45 p.m.
Public skating started Thursday, and there are public sessions daily, with the last session on Monday, Dec. 26.
‘TIS THE SEASON
“This event would not be possible without all the services and support provided by the following organizations and businesses: Ballenas Art Class, Branching out Tree Service, Central Building Supplies, Dolphin Bay music Students, KenDor Nursery, OK Tires, Parksville Lions Club, Save On Foods, Weatherwise Industries, Tim Horton’s, Whiskey Creek Christmas Tree Farm, Steele Creek Pole Corp.