After two years away, Ballarat's much-loved ice skating rink is back and will be at full capacity as the Winter Festival kicks off on Saturday.
Following the easing of restrictions announced by the state government on Wednesday, one of the festival's most popular attractions will now be able to hold up to 150 people per session.
The rink will be open from 9am to 8.30pm every day of the festival from Saturday until Sunday, July 18 with child-friendly sessions Monday to Friday from 9am to 10am, sensory sensitive sessions every Thursday from 9am to 10am and late-night disco sessions on Fridays and Saturdays from 9pm to 10pm.
City of Ballarat Mayor Daniel Moloney laced up the skates on Friday to give the rink a test run before it opens to the public.
Cr Moloney said it was important to the city to have more people able to take advantage of the Winter Festival program.
"We missed out big time last year not having it here in the centre of the city and I'm looking forward to seeing thousands of people come back here over the school holidays and beyond," he said.
"The ice skating alone and some of our other activities in the CBD can bring about 20,000 people just to the centre of Ballarat, which is fantastic.
"There is so much to do around the city and what we really need is Ballarat people to bring their friends and family from out of town into Ballarat because the businesses here really need it."
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Additional highlights of the festival include the Knights of Fire and Queen Neva at Kryal Castle, Sovereign Hill's Winter Wonderlights and animal encounters at the Ballarat Wildlife park among numerous events across the city.
Cr Moloney said the festival was designed so it could be scaled up or down depending what restrictions were in place at the time.
"We're lucky right now that the restrictions have eased enough over Victoria to allow full capacity," he said.
"Even having more people being allowed to go back into homes again as well is important because what it means is if you've got a friend or a family member from somewhere like Melbourne, we can now have up to 15 people in the house. Be COVID-safe, but still also get out and have a good time.
"Winter Fest is Ballarat's DNA, so get out there and enjoy it. There's no such thing as bad weather, there's just inappropriate clothing, so just make sure you rug up and enjoy Winter Fest because there's so much to do, especially on the ice."
With places expected to book out quickly, prospective skaters are encouraged to book tickets online to secure their place.
Masks will need to be worn at all times while inside the venue and a QR code check-in is also required upon entry.
For more information about Ballarat Winter Festival events, or to book an ice skating session, visit www.ballaratwinterfestival.com.au.
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