Bob Johnson, President of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, discusses this year’s fest
Craig Mulcahy PHOTOGRAPH
The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is typically slow for New Orleans tourism. To attract tourists and locals downtown, “Christmas in the District” was created in 2013, with live music and a musical lighting display on Convention Center Boulevard. Three years later it’s now NOLA ChristmasFest and has grown in size, ambition (an ice rink!) and fun.
How challenging is it to operate a functioning ice rink in New Orleans? It isn’t as difficult as you might think, because NOLA ChristmasFest is indoors. … The key was finding suppliers for the rink, skates and even skating talent, but it took off immediately. Who knew that so many people in New Orleans were ice skaters? That actually became our challenge! We learned a lot last year about resurfacing the ice, crowd control and how to make ice skating at NOLA ChristmasFest an enjoyable experience for everyone.
What’s the most popular attraction? The ice rink is a big draw and will be even larger this year. People have memories of ice skating at the Plaza in Lake Forest, Elmwood or Chateau Estates in the (19)70s and ’80s, but many local children never had that experience until last December. Some of the young people who came to New Orleans post-Katrina were anxious to get back on the ice.
Is there a part visitors overlook? Participating in all the activities is easy. Children may gravitate to the ice skating rink, life-size maze, carnival rides, giant inflatables, climbing wall and snowball fight, while the adults might enjoy … the elaborate decorated “Hall of Trees” and the New Orleans-themed gingerbread creations.
What’s new at the fest? We are getting a bigger ice rink for this December that measures 7,280 square feet, which is just under the size of a National Hockey League regulation rink. NOLA ChristmasFest 2016 will also feature an ice slide … and private skating lessons will be available on a reservation basis.