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In the year of cancellations, Greenville's Ice on Main endures and extends

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Ice on Main opened for its 10th season in downtown Greenville on Friday, November 13, 2020.

In any other year, 77-degree temperatures would be the most notable backdrop for the opening of the outdoor ice rink that signals the beginning of the holiday season in downtown Greenville.

This year, the fact that Ice on Main will operate at all is remarkable.

After all, the city of Greenville canceled its Christmas parade, along with annual big draws Artisphere, Fourth of July fireworks and Fall for Greenville.

Ice on Main choir

St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School choir singers perform "Christmas Time is Here" for the opening of Ice on Main in downtown Greenville on Friday, November 13, 2020.

The ice rink — now in its 10th year and heralded Friday by a chorus of St. Anthony of Padual Catholic School students — is different, Mayor Knox White said.

In June, Greenville was the first major city in the state to pass an ordinance requiring masks indoors. From the outset, however, the city has restrained its messaging on outdoor events.

That was done in consultation with medical experts at Bon Secours St. Francis and Prisma Health, who said that the main threat of coronavirus spread is indoors.

"In terms of enforceability and compliance, focusing on indoors made the most sense," White said. "It's a matter of if you have a serious effort with masks, you've got to be reasonable and people will comply."

The city is using the model set by the downtown Saturday Market, a warm-season tradition that was allowed to take place in the summer with masks, social distancing and limited capacity.

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Ice on Main Knox White

Mayor Knox White speaks during opening of Ice on Main's 10th season in downtown Greenville on Friday, November 13, 2020.

The same will apply for the 3,200-square-foot Ice on Main rink.

This year, anyone wanting to skate can buy a date-specific ticket that provides for a timed session, which will allow the city limit the number of skaters and maintain social distancing.

The rink will accommodate 30 people for each one-hour session. Tickets can be bought at www.iceonmain.com or in person if space is available.

The rink will also use distance markers, regular sanitization of surfaces, including skate rentals, and promotion of an overhead viewing area on the City Hall plaza.

While part of the reasoning for allowing the rink to open involves it being an outdoor activity, the same doesn't apply to the Christmas Parade, another annual rite in December.

The parade typically brings a large crowd standing shoulder-to-shoulder with no reasonable way to restrict entry, White said.

This year, the ice rink will operate beyond the typical Martin Luther King Jr. ending date.

“We’re usually pulling it down just as it gets cold," he said, "but this year it will be the 31st of January.”

Follow Eric on Twitter at @cericconnor.

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