FAIRFIELD — From his Reef Road shop, Al DiGuido has a clear view of Sherman Green.
“We always look out at night and it’s pitch black. So we thought it’d be great to do something in the winter that got the community involved and lit up the whole space,” said DiGuido, owner of Saugatuck Sweets in Fairfield and Westport.
The idea came to DiGuido last year, to transform the green for a weekend only into a destination for outdoor winter sports. He decided to go to the town with a plan to create a public pop-up ice rink.
“We said, ‘Why don’t we try?’ Anthony Calabrese at Parks and Recreation was all for it,” DiGuido said.
Calabrese, who is director of Parks and Recreation, said when he heard the idea, he immediately jumped on board.
“I truly feel that events like the skating rink on the Sherman Green are the main reasons our town is so special. To be able to offer a townwide event like this and do it for a great cause was a no-brainer,” Calabrese said.
For the second year in a row, DiGuido and a team of 25 to 35 volunteers will work for several hours on Thursday, Feb. 22, to set up the 64-by-48-foot rink that can accommodate 90 to 100 skaters and will include no actual ice.
The rink is constructed using a synthetic plastic ice with the consistency of a cutting board, according to DiGuido, slickened by applying a solution. Four large highway lights are brought in to illuminate the rink, which will be open on Feb. 23 3 to 9 p.m., Feb. 24 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Feb. 25 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“It’s not a small undertaking; it’s significant. It probably takes three or four hours to set it up,” DiGuido said.
The synthetic ice is advantageous, given the unpredictability of the weather. Regular skates can be used, and will be available for rental.
Tickets can be purchased at the rink for $15, or ahead of time at Saugatuck Sweets for $12. Profits will go to two charities, Fairfield-based Al’s Angels, which aids children and families battling rare blood diseases, cancer, natural disasters and financial hardship; and Shelton-based LivFree, which helps children and families fighting pediatric cancer.
According to DiGuido, last year’s rink was made possible by the roughly 30 local sponsors that pitched in to fund the rink. Just over a week before the rink is set to open, DiGuido is looking for around 10 more sponsors to help with costs. With a $500 donation, sponsors receive signage provided by DiGuido and hung in the rink.
For those three days in late February, GiGuido will look out from his shop at a Sherman Green aglow.
“It brings a sense of lightness in the middle of the dark winter,” he said.