Winterfest Hartford is bundling up for its 10th year celebrating the winter holiday season in Hartford. An initiative of the iQuilt Partnership, Winterfest Hartford begins November 29, 2019 and runs through January 20, 2020. The skating rink is open from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. On Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day, the rink is open from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m.
MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with iQuilt Executive Director Jackie Mandyck to find out more about the holiday tradition and how it makes Hartford a great place to chill.
NAN PRICE: How exciting that Winterfest Hartford is celebrating its 10th year! Tell us a little about the evolution.
JACKIE MANDYCK: Thanks! We’re excited too. The concept was to provide fun winter activities in Hartford that are available to everyone. Years ago, the city celebrated the season with lights on Constitution Plaza and Santa arriving via helicopter. There was excitement and energy. We wanted a way to recreate that and have that feeling available to everyone in the community. That’s one thing we feel Hartford has over other cities with ice rinks—we offer these free activities to one and all.
NAN: Let’s talk about those activities.
JACKIE: Winterfest Hartford brings more than 100,000 visitors into the park for all kinds of activities. I want to emphasize that all the activities are free and open to everyone.
There’s a lot of fun in Hartford and a lot of things to do. iQuilt tries to help with that, specifically with Winterfest. And we offer more than just ice skating. Some of the other activities are photos with Santa, a mascot day, and an ice sculpture day. We also have a variety of music nights from 70s, 80s, and 90s to jazz, Disney, hip hop, and heavy metal and hard rock. We’ll have our giant game room set up in the Pump House Gallery on the weekends. This year, we’re hoping to have an outdoor beer garden like the one that was so popular this summer.
NAN: How is Winterfest Hartford funded?
JACKIE: About 200 people, organizations, and foundations contribute to Winterfest with donations that range from $5 to $65,000, everything from large corporations to family-owned small businesses in the city of Hartford. We have a list of sponsors. A lot of corporations downtown have been long-time supporters, including Travelers, The Hartford, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Eversource, and LAZ Parking.
NAN: What’s great about Winterfest is, it’s creating an experience in Hartford. It brings people to the city and it has a significant community impact.
JACKIE: It’s true. The days we’re open, we average close to 1,000 skaters. It’s indescribable. You have to be downtown to feel it. I always called Winterfest “the magic of Hartford” because it brings together people from all different ages and all different backgrounds who are just having a fun time in downtown Hartford in the middle of winter in a beautiful, historic park.
NAN: How does Winterfest contribute to the overall goals of iQuilt?
JACKIE: One of the tenets of the iQuilt plan is to create a more walkable city and another is to connect our cultural organization to entities and assets. We really believe that Winterfest does that because we want people to have a Winterfest plus one.
We want people to go to Winterfest and then have a bite at one of the many restaurants downtown, or visit the annual Festival of Trees & Traditions at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and then walk over to skate at Winterfest or maybe go see a show at the Bushnell or Hartford Stage and do a little skating beforehand. So, we really think being in Bushnell Park is a centerpiece to attract people to come into the city for some fun, not just for Winterfest, but to also enjoy some of the other things around Hartford.
The richness of the arts and culture here in Hartford is just amazing. I don’t know if you can find that amount of density in other cities. iQuilt tries to “quilt” together patches of arts, culture, and activities happening downtown, whether they’re physical or programmatic. I think Winterfest does just that. It creates a wonderful vibrancy downtown.