It’s not real ice, but it is real fun.
That’s how the Audubon Zoo is pitching the return of its one-day “ice” skating event on Sunday, Nov. 23, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in front of the Capital One Stage.
Free with admission to the zoo, the event will center around a 40-foot-by-30-foot rink that resembles ice, but is actually made from an eco-friendly, recyclable acrylic material. Skate rental is included.
“Compared to skating on real ice, the experience is a little slower,” explained Lena Slivchenko, who, along with her husband, Vadim (a former Olympic hockey player), owns the synthetic, portable ice rink company All Year Sports Galaxy, which is renting out the rink.
Slower may be just fine, however, especially for little ones. Skates will be available for children as young as 2 years old, and traffic will be limited to just 35 skaters at a time who will have the joy of skating under a light, albeit fake, snowfall.
Skating will be first-come, first-served. A timed skate process may be used if needed and the line may close before 4 p.m.
So what’s the secret to iceless skating?
“As the blade comes in contact with the specialized high-density plastic it actually releases oils in the panels, and that causes you to glide,” Slivchenko said.
All Year Sports provided a rink at the zoo last year, but according to Chimene Grant, Audubon’s vice president of marketing, that particular day ended up being so cold that a lot of people stayed away.
“We still had several hundred skaters though, and they all clearly enjoyed themselves,” Grant said.
This year, the zoo is enhancing the faux winter experience with a live DJ spinning holiday tunes, and various photo opportunities, including a full-sized sleigh and visiting characters Tinker Fairy and the Queen’s Snowman (who bears a strong resemblance to Olaf from the Disney hit “Frozen”).
“I think it’s bound to be a hit with both those that have never skated before, and those that may have fond memories of skating at the ice rink that used to exist, before Hurricane Katrina hit, at the Plaza mall in New Orleans East,” Grant said. And then of course there were the other pop up rinks that we used to have that have since disappeared.”
The Audubon Zoo’s skating event kicks off Audubon’s holiday events. Others are “Hoppy Thanksgiving,” with treats and recipes, at Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium Nov. 25 and 26; the insectarium’s Dec. 13 “Jingle Bugs” afternoon featuring a visit from Santa; and the annual “Zoo Year’s Eve” countdown to noon on Dec. 31.