AKRON, Ohio-- More than a month of holiday festivities officially kicks off in Akron on Friday when the city's 10,000 square foot ice rink officially opens at Lock 3.
The ice rink is the largest seasonal ice skating rink in the state of Ohio. It is front and center at Lock 3 but it is far from the only activity that is scheduled during the holiday season.
On Saturday, a "Reindeer Run" toboggan slide will also open along with indoor activities for children that includes a "Polar Put Out" and a children's art museum.
"We have 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' shooting off of the Civic in Lock 4 on Saturday night; we have ice skating all day Saturday, and just a bunch of festivities coming up this weekend," said Chris Griffin, who is helping coordinate the activities.
Final preparations were also being made Thursday to holiday lighting and to cabins that will line Lock 3 with local craft and food vendors.
Away from Lock 3 there are numerous activities scheduled through the new year.
"Starting this weekend is the 35th annual Akron Children's Hospital Children's Festival that takes place at the John S. Knight Center and they have hundreds of wreathes and trees and holiday decor that you can bid on, and it raises money for a very worthy cause at the children's hospital," said Sharon Gilbert of the Downtown Akron Partnership.
Then on November 25, the city officially reigns in the Christmas season with the lighting of the official Christmas tree.
And on the 26, Santa will be welcomed downtown with a parade.
Next Friday, buttons will also officially go on sale that will get people into the 21st annual First Night Akron festivities that start at 6 p.m. on New Year's Eve.
"Actually last year was our big 20th year celebration and we really took a look at: did we really want to continue First Night? We got a lot of feedback from the community and all of our stakeholders and just decided that, yes, people love it; it should stay," said Kay Fedder, director of events for Downtown Akron Partnership.
"This year we are trying to make it even more exciting and fun than it has ever been so we have a lot of new performers, new activities. We are going to have the main stage program all night up on Mill Street, the fireworks shows at 9:00 and midnight; they will be a bunch of art activities, and just a lot of great things for everyone to enjoy together," said Fedder.
The Civic Theater in Akron will also host Christmas concerts with acts that include the Oak Ridge Boys and will host a performance of the Nutcracker by the Ohio Ballet.
Starting the day after Thanksgiving, visitors downtown will also be able to see a spectacular window display that has grown to 13 windows in three buildings.
Holiday displays from the old O'Neil's and Polsky's department stores have been carefully set up since August awaiting their unveiling.
On the side of the State Street parking deck, artwork will be unveiled each day after Thanksgiving as a countdown to the new year, with the final piece unveiled at midnight during First Day Akron.
"There's all of these wonderful things that start at Thanksgiving, and then we end with this amazing celebration on New Year's Eve of downtown Akron and the city and all of the goodwill and all the good wishes into next year," said Gilbert.
"This is a tough time of year for northeast Ohio to find things to do and Akron is kind of the center now; we have the ice skating rink, the arts programs, the windows, and just different things going on down here, so it's for everyone," said Griffith.