It was a great way to glide into the sometimes frenetic holiday season.

Under sunny skies, smiling skaters turned out Friday to work off some Thanksgiving calories and enjoy the first day season at the Westport Police Athletic League's ice rink at Longshore Park.

Donated in 1995 by the DeCaro Family, the owners of Splash Restaurant, the rink is owned by Westport PAL and operated by Tony Lantier of Thin Ice Management.

Lantier suggested that, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it was a challenge to open the rink as planned. "If the storm had done what it was supposed to do, with regard to surge amounts predicted, we would have been wiped out," he said. "As it is, we had $12,000 to $15,000 in damage -- fencing got banged up, and the circulation pumps for the refrigeration system were under water and had to be redone. The water came right up to the edge of the rink."

On Friday, however, the rink manager was thankful for the clear, mild weather. "You can't do any better," he said. "If you were to custom order it, this is it."

The rink's post-Thanksgiving opening has become "a tradition for Westporters and people within a half-hour of here -- Darien, Weston, Wilton, Norwalk," Lantier said. "I see the same faces year in year out. I've seen kids grow up here."

Evelyn Stevens, 9, of Westport, was one of those enjoying the first day of skating. "I take skating lessons here every year," she said. "It's much warmer than I expected November to be."

For information about fees and operating hours at the Westport PAL ice rink, visit or call 203-226-RINK (7465).