Once you get past the first fall, it's not so bad.
That's the basic lesson Robyn Wilson recommends to all the first-time skaters at Knoxville's Holidays on Ice. She estimates the outdoor ice rink on Market Square downtown already stands poised to meet or exceed last year's record attendance.
About 8,000-10,000 skaters — young and old — have skidded across the ice since the rink opened Nov. 23, said Wilson, the rink's general manager. The rink will be closed today for Christmas but reopens Wednesday through Jan. 6.
"It's got to be the most extreme family bonding experience I've ever seen," she said. "There are no computers and no cellphones because people are holding onto the walls or each other for dear life or picking their kids up off the ice. There are no interruptions because you have to focus on keeping one foot in front of the other. The No. 1 thing people always ask is why we don't stay open longer."
Channa Brilliante came Friday with her mother, Elizabeth Thomas, and got the hang of it pretty quickly, although she had an advantage.
"She used to play ice hockey in school," her mother said.
Mom stayed on the sidelines while her 27-year-old daughter readjusted.
"A couple times around the rink, and it all kind of came back," Brilliante said. "It's wonderful to have some ice you can skate on here in Knoxville."
Weather forecasts suggest the rink's about as close as the city can expect to come to a white Christmas. Wilson said she can't tell that the recent weather has had much effect on attendance.
"We've had days where it's been slow because of rain," she said. "But we're pretty much on the same track as last year. We were just a little short of 20,000 people last year. That was a record for us, and we're hoping to top that this year."
Chris Rudd brought his wife and three children from Maryville to try out their skating skills. He stood by to watch and shoot video of any falls — like when his son Damik, 15, hit the ice bottom-first.
"We see it on TV all the time, so we're starting a new tradition," the father said.
Steve Jones of Rock Hill, S.C., stopped with his two children while visiting family in Knoxville. He brought them last year but learned his lesson the first time.
"I fell, so I won't be doing that again," he said.
Skaters said it's worth the occasional plop. Damik Rudd got back up and was sailing around the rink again in a few seconds.
"You just have to be careful on the turns," he said.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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