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Canalside officials eagerly await start of winter activities

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Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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Officials at Canalside are hoping the weather cooperates as the popular waterfront destination prepares to host a grand opening of its winter activity season on Saturday.

Officials hosted an informal meeting with local media Tuesday to preview the coming season and detail both returning and new attractions.

The ice is in place for public skating, ice bikes and curling. Thomas Dee, president of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, led a tour of the works beneath the ice surface that help maintain the ice. Mother nature's cooperation is still needed for what Dee says is an opportunity for visitors to enjoy even a little time downtown during the winter months.

"It's a great form of exercise," said Dee while discussing public ice skating and other activities. "It's a great form of relaxation. It's a great place to come down for a walk. I parallel the ice skating with the boardwalk up on the water. We're all about public access to the water's edge and here you have a nice ice skating rink where the Erie Canal was."

Among the new events on the ice this season is a program known as "Silent Disco," which involves headphones that allow individual users to enjoy their own music, and perhaps get caught dancing by others who don't hear what the skater is dancing to.

"It's run in different ways throughout the country," Dee said. "The way I've heard it described is you could have four different stations, so I could be listening to blues and you could be listening to classics. Or we could all have the disco channel on and we'll all be listening to it. You don't have the loud crowd noise from outside but everybody individually could be enjoying it."

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Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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Thomas Dee, president of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, leads an informal tour of the equipment beneath the ice rink at Canalside.

Dee told reporters that an estimated 50,000 people visited during the winter months two years, while up to 80,000 people came last season.   

Saturday's schedule also includes the lightning of the holiday tree at Canalside, though Dee hinted that officials might explore postponing events until Friday or Saturday if weather forced it. He advised those interested in visiting this season to log on to Canalside's website for frequent updates to the schedule.

It's not just about the skating, Dee pointed out. There are other activities scheduled for those who prefer to stay off the ice.

"It's driving people downtown," Dee said. "Typically in the wintertime you wouldn't know what to do and you couldn't get out of the house. Now you have a place to go. Just like our summer, when you come down to see the sunset, you come down to our beer garden, you get a bite to eat and walk on the boardwalk. Now you have the parallel right here at the historically aligned Erie Canal, frozen, ice skating, and you come down and have all those nightly events." 

The rink is scheduled to be open on Christmas Day.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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