Atascadero's Winter Wonderland to go without ice rink this year

Families won’t ice skate at Atascadero’s annual Winter Wonderland this year, due to a dearth of local donations.

But event-goers will still be able to race sleds down a snow-covered hill, play in piles of fluffy shaved ice and celebrate the holidays with music and Santa Claus on Dec. 10 in the downtown area.

Atascadero Main Street executive director Steve Martin is in charge of fundraising for the community-supported event. Local donors fund the expenses, while the city provides services such as police.

While the ice skating rink hasn’t always been a Winter Wonderland staple, it certainly was a highlight in recent years.

“It was immensely popular,” Martin said.

Sponsors provided the rink in 2006 and 2007; it attracted about 12,000 visitors during its two-week run in the second year.

But its roughly $200,000 rental cost prevented its return in 2008. The amount of diesel used to run the rink contributed to the high costs.

After a year without ice skating, community donors raised enough in 2009 to rent an artificial rink for $6,000, a significant savings compared to using the iced version. A local company donated time and materials to build the rink’s installation floor.

Rain pushed back the artificial rink’s debut to early 2010. It was open for two days, attracting about 300 to 500 people.

“This year, we wanted to do it again,” Martin said of the popular attraction. “(But) fundraising has been extra difficult in these economic times.”

Winter Wonderland costs about $12,000, and “we just don’t have an extra $6,000 for the rink on top of the other expenses,” he added.

If a few major sponsors swooped in to give this week, Martin said, he could still rent the rink. If not, community members can still enjoy Winter Wonderland’s other attractions.

The $12,000 raised so far is slated for 50 tons of ice to grind into “snow,” about 200 hay bales to line Palma Avenue for the giant slide, generators for vendors, fencing, lighting and other costs.

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland is planned for 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 10 in downtown Atascadero. Admission is free. The snow slide will be featured on Palma Avenue between Traffic Way and Entrada Avenue. There will also be visits with Santa Claus, ice sculptures, music, crafts and other events at the Sunken Gardens off El Camino Real.