Crowds brave cold temps for winter fun in Merchants Square on MLK Day

Though the temperature never rose above freezing on Monday, cold weather did not deter some people from making the most of their Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

After several years with high temperatures in the 40s and 50s, Williamsburg had its coldest Jan. 21 in 10 years, with a high temperature of 30 and lows reaching 19, according to weather.com.

The low temps didn’t keep dozens of people from ice skating at the Liberty Ice Pavilion in Merchants Square. Mike Ruwe visited from Chesapeake along with his two daughters and his niece to do just that while the children were out of school.

“It’s a long holiday weekend, and when you have an opportunity to take the kids out and do something fun, you deal with the weather as it comes,” Ruwe said. “Everybody’s having a good time, the kids love Williamsburg, and that’s what we wanted to come out today.”

Liberty Ice Pavilion, which will be open until Feb. 18, has had a good season so far according to general manager Tony Budney. Cold days such as Monday are, while not ideal, good for business: just cold enough to want to go skating, but not so cold that people don’t want to go outdoors.

“Business has been pretty good, busier than I thought it might be; it helps that it’s brutally cold, but sunny, and not a lot of wind,” Budney said. “It’s not the cold that makes it uncomfortable, it’s the wind or the cloud cover, so today is just about right.”

Nearby in the College of William and Mary Bookstore and Café, people milled about the shelves or gathered in the café, looking for something to read and something hot to drink. According to store manager Torian Keller, the weather has helped increase customer traffic slightly.

“There are a lot of people out in the square, and a lot of activity in the store,” Keller said. “January is usually pretty slow for us anyway, because there aren’t as many tourists, so it’s nice to see things pick up for a bit with folks looking to get out of the cold.”

The weather could have been worse — and much colder — if history is any indication. The coldest day in Williamsburg’s history was on another Jan. 21 in 1985, with a record low of -7, according Weather Underground.

Monday’s weather

High: 30

Low: 19

Source: weather.com

Jan. 21, 2009

High: 37

Low: 17

Source: weatherunderground.com

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