Ann Wieland hadn't been skating in years. But her husband, Chris, had just joined an amateur hockey league and needed the practice.
That made opening day of the ice rink at Quiet Waters Park Saturday a perfect way to get the entire family involved. "I was a little shaky on my first go-around," Ann Wieland said. "But as I got out there, it got better."
Her 3-year-old-daughter Claire, however, didn't share her mother's enthusiasm. Her wrap-around skates with double edges couldn't keep her from falling. She would only shake her head a resounding "no" when asked if she would come back.
"It's a little rough out there," Chris Wieland said. "I think this is great. They ought to have this all over the place. It's a good sport, and it's good exercise."
It was an afternoon full of bumps and bruises on the first day of skating at the new park, which opened in September in Hillsmere, outside of Annapolis. About 30 people ventured onto the outdoor ice rink at one time and skated to Christmas carols played over loudspeakers.
"It is a lot of fun," said 9-year-old Susan Christian. "We can finally do something a lot different than a movie."
Many people had waited for weeks for the $900,000 rink to open; delays were caused by the recent spate of warm weather. "We heard it was open; we just wanted to see if it really was," said Todd Parks, who planned to bring his 2-year-old daughter Britany skating.
"It is not as crowded as I thought it would be," he said. "I guess not everybody knows it is open yet."
Mal Curran and his son Matthew run Quiet Water Concessions, the company that operates the rink and concession stand. Curran said he hopes to see 2,000 people a month on the ice. He said about 1,600 people a month need to use the rink to keep the facility from losing money.
It costs $2.50 to skate for two hours and $2 to rent skates. On weekdays, the rink is open from 2 to 6:45 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, skating is allowed until 9 p.m. There are various intermissions throughout the day for resurfacing.
The Quiet Waters rink is one of two outdoor skating facilities in the county. The other is located in Benfield. The county hopes the rink can remain open through March as compressed Freon pumped through coils running under the rink helps keep the ice frozen.
The rink, which is 180 feet long and 90 feet wide, accommodates 300 skaters. It has a place to eat hot meals in front of a fire. Theme days, which will feature food and music from various countries, are planned.
"It's a family event," Curran said. "People can ice-skate and have dinner. We don't want parents to drop their kids off and leave them. The idea is for the family to stay together as a unit."
That was apparent Saturday, as people of all sizes and ages crowded onto the ice. Many, like 7-year-old John Emrick, had never skated.
When his mother's friend left him standing in the middle of the ice rink at one point to talk to someone, the only thing he knew to do was to cry out for help.
"Mom, help me," he cried, as skaters of all sizes breezed by on either side. Finally, John gave up and did the only thing he could: sit down.
Eventually, Joseph Lonczynski, a skate guard hired to watch over the crowd, glided to the rescue. He picked John up and guided him over to the safety of the wall.
Then another skate guard, 18-year-old Ed Bilderback, grabbed John's hand and the two did laps together around the rink.
Of course, everyone had their own reasons why the ice rink is a good idea. Ten-year-old Andrea James, who lives in Annapolis, said: "It's fun because you can't swim in the winter."