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Warm Weather Attracts 11,000-Plus Visitors To Westchester Winter Wonderland

Joseph Soricelli, a consultant with Family Financial NY, which co-sponsored a Scotch tasting fundraiser for Friends of Westchester County Parks on Saturday at Winter Wonderland in Valhalla. A Bourbon tasting event is being planned for Dec. 29.
Joseph Soricelli, a consultant with Family Financial NY, which co-sponsored a Scotch tasting fundraiser for Friends of Westchester County Parks on Saturday at Winter Wonderland in Valhalla. A Bourbon tasting event is being planned for Dec. 29. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Brenn Swanson, the Westchester County parks worker on stilts, stoops down to direct Preng Menga of the Bronx to various attractions at Winter Wonderland at Kensico Dam Plaza on Saturday. The fest resumes Thursday thru Dec. 23 & Dec. 26 thru Jan. 3.
Brenn Swanson, the Westchester County parks worker on stilts, stoops down to direct Preng Menga of the Bronx to various attractions at Winter Wonderland at Kensico Dam Plaza on Saturday. The fest resumes Thursday thru Dec. 23 & Dec. 26 thru Jan. 3. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
A holiday train, which rode near Frosty and a skating rink sponsored by the NY Rangers, is a popular ride at Westchester's Winter Wonderland at Kensico Dam Plaza. It resumes Thursday through Sunday, and again from Dec. 21 through Jan. 3, 2016.
A holiday train, which rode near Frosty and a skating rink sponsored by the NY Rangers, is a popular ride at Westchester's Winter Wonderland at Kensico Dam Plaza. It resumes Thursday through Sunday, and again from Dec. 21 through Jan. 3, 2016. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Joseph Soricelli, a consultant with Family Financial NY, which co-sponsored Saturday's Scotch tasting fundraiser for Friends of Westchesrter County Parks, sets up beforehand. Nearly $1,800 was raised, he said.
Joseph Soricelli, a consultant with Family Financial NY, which co-sponsored Saturday's Scotch tasting fundraiser for Friends of Westchesrter County Parks, sets up beforehand. Nearly $1,800 was raised, he said. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Brenn Swanson, a Westchester County Parks worker on stilts, greets Winter Wonderland visitors form the Bronx, and offered a rundown of all they could see at Kensico Dam Plaza on Saturday. The fest resumes Thursday thru Dec. 23, & Dec. 26 thru Jan. 3.
Brenn Swanson, a Westchester County Parks worker on stilts, greets Winter Wonderland visitors form the Bronx, and offered a rundown of all they could see at Kensico Dam Plaza on Saturday. The fest resumes Thursday thru Dec. 23, & Dec. 26 thru Jan. 3. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

VALHALLA, N.Y. -- It hardly feels like winter in the Hudson Valley. Yet, balmy unseasonal weather is fueling record high turnouts for the Westchester County Park Department's Winter Wonderland -- which runs through Jan. 3 at Kensico Dam Plaza.

"Within the first three weeks, we had more than 10,000 visitors,"said Joe Stout, executive director for Friends of Westchester County Parks.

At least 11,000 people have attended so far this year compared to 8,000 at this point in 2014, county officials said Thursday.

"We have received a great response to Westchester’s Winter Wonderland this year. Thousands of people are coming out to see the new features we have included. It is a great family event that helps people make memories close to home."

"The unusually warm weather is a great contributor to us seeing more families visit Westchester’s Winter Wonderland," Stout told Daily Voice on Tuesday.

Hundreds of skaters could be found enjoying an outdoor ice rink. Despite temperatures climbing above 60 degrees on Saturday, specialized cooling equipment below the surface kept ice conditions in check.

"We are very grateful to the New York Rangers for being an event sponsor and offering funding that helped us to provide an ice rink that is double the size as last year’s and the same size as the ice rink at Rockefeller Center," Stout said.

Skating and Playland amusement rides are free with the price of admission, which is $15 for adults and free for children under five.

And we haven't even mentioned the highly-sophisticated, synchronized holiday music and light show leading to and surrounding the county's Sept. 11, 2001, memorial.

County Executive Rob Astorino once called Kensico Dam Plaza the "Central Park of Westchester."

It was living up to that billing this past weekend, and county parks officials are optimistic its popularity will continue on Thursday through Dec. 23, and again from Dec. 26 until Jan. 3 when the Winter Wonderland will be open every day.

"We hope the weather continues to be pleasant for visitors so that they can really take time to enjoy the entire experience," Stout said.

The full daily schedule and special events can be found online here: On Monday Dec. 21, for instance, children age 12 and under get in for free by bringing a donation of three items for Food Bank for Westchester Night.

If you wondered why some adults were disappearing into a VIP tent, Friends of Westchester County Parks held its annual Scotch tasting fundraiser on Saturday evening.

The tasting including a visit by carolers and description of age-old favorites by Jim Patterson, Whisky associate with Glenfiddich & The Balverie.

Joseph Soricelli, a consultant with Family Financial NY which co-sponsored the event, said more than $1,800 was raised. Soricelli also is a member and volunteer for Friends of the Westchesrer County Parks.

Due to Saturday's Scotch tasting success, a Bourbon tasting is now being planned for Tuesday Dec. 29, according to Soricelli.

The joyous screams of children aboard Playland's Wonderland Express could be heard nearby. Other rides are the Holly Jolly Caterpillar and the Winter Hay Ride.

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