Norwich - Deb Schwell of Ledyard stood on her white figure skates at the edge of the Norwich ice rink watching the clock and waiting for the minutes to tick toward 2 p.m.
Her anticipation got the better of her, and the 68-year-old avid figure skater glided across the shiny, smooth virgin ice a couple of minutes early. No one minded.
"As usual, it's a beautiful surface," Schwell said. "Norwich has the smoothest ice around."
Schwell was the first skater on the ice Tuesday afternoon as the Norwich Municipal Ice Rink opened for business for the first time in five months after finally overcoming a series of mechanical problems that have shuttered the rink since May 6.
A minute later, after getting her boom box music working, figure skater Kelly Beaulieu sprinted across the ice, practicing spins, leg lifts and other fancy moves she will need to perfect in time for the Norwich Skating Club's performance of "Nutcracker on Ice" Nov. 16 and 17.
"I'm really glad that the show is going to happen now," she said while lacing up her skates.
Beaulieu, 19, of Colchester is a member of the Imperial Skating Academy, and in addition to practicing for her role in the "Nutcracker," she also wanted to prepare for an upcoming skating test.
Neither Schwell nor Beaulieu took a five-month hiatus while waiting for the Norwich Ice Rink Authority to fix the rink's problems, but both said they couldn't wait to return to their home rink.
"My gas tank will be very happy," Beaulieu said. "I've been to Bolton, Cromwell and even went to the University of Rhode Island. It's just nice to be back at a place that is very welcoming."
By 4:30, about a dozen skaters and coaches were practicing leaps, spins and stretches as music played. More were arriving in the parking lot.
While the skaters participated in the first figure skating freestyle practice session Tuesday afternoon, Learn to Skate program coordinator Rachel Bailey gave up the chance to be among the first on the ice to make a few dozen phone calls. Bailey wanted to call as many families as possible who participated in the spring session to alert them that Learn to Skate will start up again on Sunday.
She hopes for 100 participants in the six-week program that will be divided by skill levels. That would be a smaller than usual turnout, but Bailey isn't sure how many will be ready on short notice after the long shutdown. She hopes the December sessions will pick up.
The Learn to Skate programs will start up Sunday at 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Fees are based on skill levels. Anyone interested should contact Bailey at the rink at (860) 892-2555 or at email@example.com.
"I can't wait to get out there," she said between phone calls.