WASHINGTON (AP) — Jill Biden extended her holiday theme of “Magic, Wonder and Joy” to the White House grounds with an ice rink on the South Lawn for children to skate and play hockey in December.
“Who's ready to skate?” she said, after several ice skating performances by Brian Boitano, a 1988 Olympic gold medalist, and the comic-strip dog Snoopy, among others. Earlier this week, she unveiled decorations inside the executive mansion that she said were designed to help visitors experience the “magic, wonder and joy” of the holidays as they did when they were kids.
The 50-by-70-foot (15.2-by-21.3-meter) rink will operate throughout December, but the White House did not specify days and hours. Washington, D.C.-area schoolchildren and children from families with service members, frontline workers, first responders and teachers will be invited to skate.
The first lady reminisced about skating with her sisters on the frozen canals of the Delaware River when they were growing up in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.
“We spent hours gliding across the glistening ice, our cheeks pink from the cold," she said. “And in those hours, what was normally an ordinary town and an ordinary bridge, you know, transformed into a bright sparkling landscape, and just glittering as if it were covered in magic.
“That’s how children often see the world in this time of the year, with magic wonder and joy,” she continued. “What's more magical and wonderful and joyful than, you know, being on an ice rink in the South Lawn of the White House. Who knew, right? It's so great to look out the window and to see this down here.”
As he escorted her off the ice, Boitano teased that he had an extra costume in the dressing room in case she wanted to join the show.
“Why not,” Biden said, laughing all the way.
“We could do a really good pair number,” Boitano said. The first lady stepped off the ice, took her front-row seat in the audience and covered her lap with a blanket in the brisk, 30-degree weather.
The National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association will provide lessons through their “Learn to Play/Learn to Skate” program, which provides first-time participants with free head-to-toe equipment, weekly sessions and coaching.
This rink is not the first one built on the White House grounds.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter, who was buried Wednesday in her hometown of Plains, Georgia, had an ice rink built on the South Lawn for Olympian Peggy Fleming to perform during White House Christmas receptions.
Other supporters of the new rink include the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation and Comcast Spectacor.