On a gloriously beautiful Saturday morning, the city opened its Lock 3 ice skating rink and sled run in anticipation of the comeback of Archie the Talking Snowman.
Bright sunlight and unseasonably warm temperatures greeted a handful of skaters who showed up for the 11 a.m. opening of the rink.
The weather was so nice, two young skateboarders in T-shirts rolled past Lock 3’s main entrance in the mid-afternoon sun.
Lock 3 Manager Tish Jernigan said the city opened the 10,000-square-foot rink early to make sure the ice was in good shape — it was — and to iron out any kinks for the anticipated holiday crush.
The rink is open for skating today from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the grand opening, dubbed HolidayFest at Lock 3, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday when Archie the Snowman makes his return to Akron after years of hibernation.
Grand-opening festivities will begin with a short introductory program, lighting of a giant Christmas tree, fireworks, the tapping of the first keg of Akron-brewed Christmas Ale from Thirsty Dog and, Jernigan said, the unveiling of the 17-foot-tall talking snowman.
Jernigan said Archie will be on display in the basement of the former O’Neil’s department store adjacent to Lock 3.
Several thousand children visited the giant snowman for 35 years, beginning in 1968, at Chapel Hill Mall near the J.C. Penney’s store.
Tom Uplinger and David Burkett, both of Akron, visited Archie at the mall when they were kids, and they have been lobbying to bring back the big guy for the past year.
Jernigan said their efforts were so successful on the “Bring Archie Back” Facebook page, the colorful snowman now has more than 6,000 page members.
It won’t be the only attraction of grand-opening night.
Jernigan said three original O’Neil’s Christmas displays will be unveiled in the building’s street-front windows.
The rink and the 150-foot downhill sled run will be open for use for the winter season through Jan. 27.
For a full list of Lock 3 HolidayFest events, go to www.lock3live.com.
Janet Craze of Cuyahoga Falls brought her two children — first-grader Liam and third-grader Regan — to the early opening of the rink after reading about it, she said, in a Beacon Journal story.
She said they usually go to the city rink in the Falls, but decided to try Lock 3 this time.
“We’ll definitely come back,” Craze said.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.