Beloved holiday traditions return to downtown San Jose

The holiday season commenced in the South Bay on Friday evening.

After a one-year hiatus, Downtown Ice in San Jose reopened.

"It’s a holiday tradition. I think people are very excited to have it back here," said Brandon Partello of Special Ice, the company that constructed the rink.

This marked the 27th occurrence of the seasonal staple. A team of 30 workers put the finishing touches on the venue Friday morning.

"This year is a particularly important time for Christmas in downtown San Jose to take off," said Dr. Robert Chapman Wood, a professor of strategic management at San Jose State University.

The COVID pandemic is in the rearview mirror, along with the ill-fated roller rink that arrived last holiday season and promptly departed.


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"It was very apparent from the people who did come out, that they really missed the ice. So I made it my passion project to make sure we could find a new producer and bring it back," said Tricialee McNabb, the general manager of Downtown Ice.

Now, there are 7,000 square feet of thick ice, roughly half the size of the San Jose Sharks' home surface. The Circle of Palms Plaza provides a natural obstacle course for a meticulously formed base.

"We have a refrigeration system that’s underneath the ice there. And we start by misting water — very fine droplets. And that builds up layer, by layer," said Partello.

Just across Market Street, another set of workers prepared for the annual Christmas in the Park.

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"It’s generally a nice thing when the city puts on events like this. If they didn’t do it, the city wouldn’t be as vibrant and exciting to live in," said resident Tristan Shah.

Fifteen vendors and a playhouse competition fill the area of Cesar Chavez Park. Officials said they began preparing back in January to provide attendees with greater quality and a touch of old-world charm.

"We provide a townhall area for everyone in the area to come and celebrate the holidays, however, they want to celebrate. It’s a place of joy," said Christmas in the Park Managing Director Debbie Degutis.

Wood said the positive vibes from the ice rink and Christmas in the Park translate to positive cash flow for area merchants.

"A vibrant Silicon Valley, which is not just people sitting at home doing remote work, but people getting out and being part of the valley, is very important, both because it produces money, but also because it produces a place we wanna live in," said Wood.

Downtown Ice is open from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. on Friday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. There's a grand opening event scheduled for Monday evening.

Christmas in the Park opens Nov. 24.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the South Bay bureau. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv.