While we may not always see a white Christmas, it’s a known fact that the ice is nice in Paradise! After a year break due to the pandemic, the Paradise Ice Rink is back in action and set to open on November 11. This year, it’s accompanied by an expanded variety of family-friendly activities, events, and spaces to spend time.
“Because so many people come to socialize and not just skate, we’ve expanded the offerings to include activities, music, art, food, and drink. There is truly something for everyone over the nearly nine-week season,” said Paradise Recreation and Park District Manager Dan Efseaff.
Events this year include a Chili Cookoff, live music, Pinewood Derby, Craft brew (from local homebrewers) and wine garden, holiday craft fair and ornament making, classic car show, and a Polar Bear Paddlefest. Public suggestions inspired many of the ideas for these activities.
Since its inception in 2012, the Paradise Ice Rink has been a testament to the spirit of the Ridge. For Efseaff, it was never more evident than directly after the 2018 Camp Fire. “After a lot of hard work, we opened the curtain on the ice rink one week after the evacuation order was lifted and did a tree lighting ceremony. Over 3,000 people came through on opening day. For many people, it was the first glimmer of hope for the community.”
As residents have returned, so, too, have their friends, family, and neighbors who want to support the community. An outdoor ice rink is a perfect opportunity to bring people together. “People are very hungry for wholesome fun family things they can do that are Covid-mindful. Things they can do outside at safe distances,” Efseaff said. The Winter Wonderland brings just such an opportunity. “The events reflect a variety of interests, are community-oriented, social, and inexpensive. Even if you don’t skate, just coming out to the ice rink sipping hot chocolate under our heat lamps feels like a festival.”
Every day, PRPD staff proudly reconstruct the ice rink from scratch, an amazing amount of work for the entire crew. During the fall and winter months, Winter Wonderland is one of the biggest employers in Paradise, hiring over 25 seasonal employees to keep it running smoothly. The staff is an intergenerational mix of teens, adults, and retirees, all coming together to provide a wholesome experience people will enjoy.
It’s also good for business: “We attract a variety of vendors and our sponsors get to highlight the good things that they are doing for the community, which translates to support for them throughout the year. People coming up means that businesses benefit—and it also provides a clear demonstration of what kind of community we aspire to be.”
Case in point: Efseaff recalls a couple from Sacramento he met in 2019 who brought their 5-year-old to skate. The overwhelming sense of community, welcoming, and fun prompted them to move to the Ridge.
It’s this friendly, community spirit in Paradise, he said, that continues to keep the Ice Rink tradition alive. “It requires support from the community, sponsors, individual donations, and volunteers to keep the ice in Paradise.”
He hopes that visitors to the Winter Wonderland will be pleasantly surprised when they visit this year as they take in the events and atmosphere. “There’s something down-home about our events; they feel genuine, welcoming, familiar, and yet many of them are ‘brand new traditions.’ It’s a very positive thing for the community.”