As Anna Kathryn Dupre, 8, gingerly stepped off the ice after skating around the rink several times Saturday, she told her parents she’s “never felt so alive!”

“It was so much fun,” Anna said later, after she had strapped her skates back on and made one final pass before her session expired.

Anna’s 2-year-old sister, Amelia, agreed, saying she had a “skating good” time at the Baton Rouge River Center’s “Summer Skating on the River.”

From first-timers to highly trained skaters, hundreds of people hit the rink for the opening weekend of the River Center’s popular attraction.

Being able to ice skate in southern Louisiana is a rarity in itself. Ice skating in July is another story all together.

That’s part of the appeal, said Kristen Canezaro, marketing coordinator for the River Center.

Canezaro said the ice skating sessions in winter sell out quickly, so organizers decided last year to try to bring the activity to summer.

“It started slow because people didn’t know about it, but as soon as word got out, it sold out,” Canezaro said. “It’s just a new family activity that’s not outside, not hot, so it’s fun and different.”

James Lovell and Heidi Lopez drove in from Houma to spend the morning ice skating with their young children, Nathaniel Lovell, 7, and Tristen Lopez, 3.

“We basically never see snow, and the only ice we have is in our ice chest,” Lovell said. “Ice skating was great when I was a kid, so I wanted to introduce Nathaniel to it.”

It was the first time on ice for the youngster, who at first, was among the dozens of people slowly making the laps by gripping the wall surrounding the rink.

By the end though, Nathaniel Lovell had gotten the hang of it.

“It was great because I got better and faster,” he said, admitting he fell “more time than he counted.”

Several times during the morning, spectators could hear the unmistakable “boom” of a skater crashing into the barrier wall, usually followed by the laughter of the downed skater.

Canezaro said the River Center is considering offering lessons for the less-experienced skaters. But some of the skaters are already professionals, she said.

“You have the ones who can’t get off the wall to people doing triple axels,” Canezaro said.

Svetlana Pakhomova laced up her white ice skates and glided onto the ice as soon as the rink opened.

She made several seamless laps around the ice as her husband and young daughter watched from the sidelines.

Pakhomova said growing up in the Ukraine, she could ice skate year-round on public rinks or frozen ponds.

Since moving to Baton Rouge in 2001, she could get on the ice only once a year when the River Center offered wintertime ice skating.

“I’m so happy they have it in the summer, too, now,” she said. “I look forward to it all year.”

Organizers are also hoping to showcase some of downtown Baton Rouge’s attractions through the “Discover Downtown” package deal that includes admission to the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum and the Louisiana Art & Science Museum.

“We really want to bring people to the area and show them that there’s a lot going on,” Canezaro said.

Jennifer Thompson and a group of family and friends made the trip from Covington to skate and visit the downtown museums.

“We haven’t been to the museums in the downtown area before, so we’re excited to see what they have to offer,” she said.

The “Discover Downtown” package is $20.

The regular package is $12 for skate rental, 90-minute skating session, small drink and candy; group rates are available.