Fresno's unseasonably warm weather didn't stop local families, first-timers, and out-of-town visitors from getting a taste of winter on Christmas Day at the downtown Fresno ice rink.
With a daytime high in Fresno that hit 69 -- 16 degrees warmer than normal -- hundreds of people were skating at the Fulton Mall ice rink about 4 p.m. Wednesday to enjoy one of the few activities open to the public.
Manager Shelby Schroeder said it's fairly popular on Christmas Day but she didn't expect so many visitors. The rink was open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Although Schroeder did not have a visitor total, at one point in the afternoon more than 200 were in skates.
"Christmas is always a good day for us. It was a good day last year," she said. "But we weren't expecting it to be this crazy."
People of all ages, from young children with ice-rink walkers to those who skated like pros, circled the rink, stopping every few laps for pictures.
After ice skating for the entire morning, mother Mandi Michaelides walked with her husband Chris and three children to the exit. Michaelides thought of the rink when she was searching for a fun activity the whole family could enjoy.
"It's pretty cool it's open on Christmas Day," she said. "I was surprised."
Her 9-year-old daughter, Terri, said she was hoping to go back next year. "It's just fun, we can really bond and help each other on the ice," Terri said.
Other visitors, such as Stephanie Moreno, stood outside the ice rink snapping pictures. Moreno took her 12-year-old daughter and nieces to the rink.
"Usually we just go to the movies, but we wanted to do something different," Moreno said.
For some families, the rink provided an opportunity to reconnect while getting out of the house. Monica Landecho, who now lives in San Diego, said activities like these represent the spirit of Christmas.
"It's something we've always wanted to do -- just haven't made time for it." Landecho said. "Now that we are all home for Christmas, it's perfect."
Gisela Chevalier traveled from New Orleans to visit her son and two grandchildren, Gisela, 10, and Julian, 8, after a lapse of three years. It was the first time the grandchildren ice skated. To the family's surprise, the children didn't even need an ice walker.
"My parents thought I was going to fall because it's my first time ice skating. I didn't," Gisela said.
Despite the travel, Chevalier said she hopes it won't be the last time the family visits the rink.
"It's a very good place to bring the kids and just enjoy seeing the smiles on their faces."
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6659, email@example.com or @DianaT_Aguilera.