Bryant Park Kicks Off the Holiday Season with Pro Ice Skating, Tree Lighting, and Fireworks

Erin DeGregorio

Bryant Park's 50-foot Norway Spruce gets lit (and with a fireworks display) to signal the Christmas season at the second annual "Tree Lighting Skate-tacular" in the Bank of America Winter Village. (New York, New York) (Friday, December 2, 2016) / Photo: Erin DeGregorio

Rockefeller Center may have the biggest tree on display in Manhattan, but Bryant Park gave the famed spectacle a run for its money at the second annual "Tree Lighting Skate-tacular" event on Friday, December 2. Ice skaters of varying ages and degrees helped the enormous rink-side crowd get in the holly jolly spirit by showing off their skills and spins to a story set to live music.

“For the second year in a row, Bryant Park has matched some of the world’s top ranked skaters with a compelling original story to create holiday cheer with New York City residents and visitors of all ages,” said Johnny Weir, the first-ever Winter Village Skating Ambassador. “I’m excited and honored to help ring in the season.”

Dancing with the Stars’s Carrie Ann Inaba narrated the “The Lights Before Christmas” tale, which follows a family made of lights on their Christmas Eve visits to everyday New Yorkers. Her reading came to life when world-renowned skaters all played characters in the storyline.

This year’s selected skaters included two-time Olympian Weir, reigning world champion Javier Fernández, two-time Canadian champions Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, former Olympian Kimmie Meissner and 24-time U.S. National Champion synchronized skating team the Haydenettes. They performed to the Lapis Luna Orchestra, who provided the soundtrack of holiday favorites for the program.

The “Tree Lighting Skate-tacular,” made possible by Bank of America, honored the efforts of (RED) and their mission to create an AIDS-free generation. [Bank of America (RED) program]

“We are excited to continue the tradition of celebrating the season of giving here at Bryant Park while raising awareness for (RED). One hundred percent of the money generated through Bank of America’s programs with (RED) goes directly to work on the ground in Africa through grants provided by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria,” said Jeff Barker, Bank of America’s New York State president.

“This is the third year of Bank of America’s seven year, $20 million commitment to support this great work. We are not only providing the money needed to make a difference, but also bringing the kind of attention required to create a lasting and global impact.”

Prior to the event’s start, Roseanna and Martin Ryan from Stony Brook, N.Y. lined up at the rink at 4.p.m. to get the best viewing spots possible.

“We came into the city for the weekend and this was one of the things we wanted to do, but solely for this,” said Roseanna Ryan, who is a big fan of the tree lighting. “We just want to try to get in the Christmas spirit, listen to Christmas music and have the tree light up.”

Alexandria Kennedy, who works in Manhattan but is from Bethlehem, P.A., came straight from her office to Bryant Park. Her favorite parts of the program were Weir’s routine as Santa Claus and the tree lighting itself.

“I thought it was really a part of New York culture to see a tree lighting, which is awesome,” Kennedy told NYCity News Service. “Then just the icing on the cake was seeing Johnny Weir and all the other Olympic skaters right here in the city.”

After the fireworks flew and the 50-foot Norway Spruce lit up, the rink immediately opened for the public, with Lapis Luna performing more Christmas-time classics for another hour.

The free-admission ice skating rink will remain open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. until March 5, 2017.

Erin DeGregorio

Close up of Bryant Park's lit, 50-foot Norway Spruce in the Bank of America Winter Village. (New York, New York) (Friday, December 2, 2016) / Photo: Erin DeGregorio