MADRID — The skaters had one simple goal: avoid falling on the ice.
Brothers Collin J. and Zach S. Taylor didn't have trouble accomplishing that goal Sunday afternoon during the opening day of Madrid's outdoor skating rinks. The rinks at North and Church streets, next to the Hepburn Library of Madrid, have been a winter staple in the community for decades.
"I like to skate around and play hockey," said Zach, 11, a sixth-grader at Madrid-Waddington Central School. "But I also try real hard not to fall on the ice."
Several skaters, both young and old, were gliding around the two outdoor ice rinks and reveling in the laughter of other skaters. A few parents stood inside the warming house watching their kids zip across the frozen faux-pond while sipping a hot chocolate.
"The kids have been itching for the rinks to open," said Brian L. Moulton, the Madrid fire chief and rink supervisor. "It's a great way to get kids out of the house and enjoy the winter."
Making ice each season at the outdoor rinks is something of an ordeal — the surface needs repeated flooding-and-shoveling sessions and consistent temperatures to keep it frozen. A nearby fire hydrant is opened to acquire water to freeze the rinks.
"We spent three nights flooding the field to get it open for Sunday," said Mr. Moulton, noting some areas on the ice skaters can still see grass. "We will flood it every night we can to get the ice thicker."
The Madrid town highway department assists them by plowing the parking lot and pushing snow off the rinks when a heavy snowfall occurs. The ice is groomed nightly by volunteers.
The Madrid Youth Commission and Madrid Volunteer Fire Department run the outdoor ice rinks. They provide children and adults with free skates and don't charge admission to use the rinks.
The Madrid Town Council provides funding for the outdoor rinks. Lights around the vacant property illuminate the rinks at night. An average of 75 to 100 kids could be found skating on weekends at the rinks, with one used for ice hockey and the other for regular skating.
"I like skating, it's fun," said Collin, 9, a fourth-grader at Madrid-Waddington.
A concession stand inside the warming house offers hot chocolate, soda, candy, chips and popcorn.
The rinks will offer several theme nights, including a disc jockey playing music for "Rock-n-Skate" nights and the annual Frozen Foot Day. The event, scheduled from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Feb. 21, will offer several activities for the kids with a Mardi Gras theme, including beads, jazz music, Cajun chicken wings, hurricane punch, chili, pizza and haywagon rides.
The outdoor rinks are expected to be open until mid-March.
The outdoor rinks will be open, weather permitting, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday.