- Sarah Elsesser Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Holiday lights glistened in the background and the moon sparkled above 13-year-old Isabella Paciletti as she zipped around an outdoor ice-skating rink at Saturday’s opening of Hoffman’s Chocolates’ 27th Annual Winter Wonderland.
“It’s fun to have the rink outside in Florida since it’s not that cold,” Isabella, of Greenacres, said catching her breath as she stepped off the ice. “It’s a very fun experience.”
Officials from Hoffman’s and the Florida Panthers cut the ribbon in front of the Panthers in Palm Beach Ice Skating Rink, which is the latest addition to the Winter Wonderland. The 2,400-square-foot rink, which is kept at 32 degrees, drew about 40 people within the first hour of opening.
“It was definitely a risky decision to do this, but we worked hard and the product is good,” said Grant Levins, the outdoor rink manager. “The people love it and come back happy.”
This year there are more than 125,000 LED lights illuminating arctic scenes of polar bears and penguins, a nativity scene, several Christmas trees, a glowing Hanukkah display and more.
“The lights are amazing,” exclaimed 4-year-old Emma Busekrus, of Coconut Creek. “That was my first favorite thing about today.” Emma’s mom, Amy, added that she and her family have been coming for the past five years, and every year it “gets better.”
Besides more lights and the rink, Hoffman’s added food vendors so patrons can enjoy a variety of snacks in between skating and light-gazing.
“It’s our first time here, but we saw the event on Facebook,” said Heather Robinson, of West Palm Beach. “We love it. It’s been great and [my daughter] loves the lights.”
While the opening night drew a couple hundred people, regional vice president of Hoffman’s Chocolates, Randall Vitale, says they are expecting a lot more people as the holiday season nears and with Santa and Mrs. Claus making their debut on Friday.
“I think tonight is a little early for some to be thinking about Christmas. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, though, it’s a hundred miles per hour here,” said Vitale. “This is a gift for us and to the community. We are so happy to do it every year.”
Hoffman’s Winter Wonderland is open through Dec. 30, except on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Admission is free.