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This holiday season's coolest ice rink may be on the White House lawn

WASHINGTON – Move over, Rockefeller Center.

This year’s hottest – or is it the coolest – ice rink may be on the South Lawn of the White House.

“I have skated and opened so many rinks around the country,” figure skating champion Brian Boitano said Wednesday as he joined first lady Jill Biden in unveiling the temporary rink. “But I gotta say that this is the most iconic place I've ever skated.”

Iconic? Yes. But also invitation only.

Throughout December, the children of military families, frontline workers, first responders, educators and local school children will get to lace on skates waiting for them next to the rink.

The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association, which helped support the rink, will give lessons to young, wannabe players.

1988 Olympic figure skater Brian Boitano, left, skates next to first lady Jill Biden during the unveiling of the White House Holiday Ice Rink, located at the south panel of the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) ORG XMIT: DCJM101
1988 Olympic figure skater Brian Boitano, left, skates next to first lady Jill Biden during the unveiling of the White House Holiday Ice Rink, located at the south panel of the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) ORG XMIT: DCJM101

Biden said she’s trying to recreate for others the experience she and her sisters had growing up when they spent hours gliding across the frozen canals of the Delaware River.

“In those hours, what was normally an ordinary town and an ordinary bridge transformed into a bright, sparkling landscape, and just glittering as if it were covered in magic,” she said. “And that's how children often see the world in this time of the year, with magic, wonder and joy.”

Magic, wonder and joy is the theme Biden chose for the decorations inside the White House where she tried to capture the delight and imagination of childhood during the holidays.

“What’s more magical and wonderful and joyful than being on an ice rink at the South Lawn?” Biden said as she stood on the rink with Boitano, the Washington Monument behind her as she faced the White House. “It’s so great to look out the window and see this.”

This isn’t the first time an ice rink has been erected on the lawn, but it’s been a while.

In 1980, Olympic gold medal winner Peggy Fleming performed on a temporary rink during holiday parties hosted by President Jimmy Carter for the Secret Service, White House military aides and other staff.

President Jimmy Carter calls for other performers to join himself, Santa Claus and ice skating star Peggy Fleming for pictures at a White House reception for U.S. Secret Service agents and military aides in Washington, Dec. 22, 1980
President Jimmy Carter calls for other performers to join himself, Santa Claus and ice skating star Peggy Fleming for pictures at a White House reception for U.S. Secret Service agents and military aides in Washington, Dec. 22, 1980

On Wednesday, Boitano joked that he’d brought an extra costume for the first lady.

Biden, however, left the skating up to the professionals.

“You know he’s scared to death that I’m going to fall,” Biden said as Boitano helped her get on and off the ice.

US First Lady Jill Biden (R) speaks alongside US figure skater Brian Boitano during the unveiling of the holiday ice skating rink, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, on November 29, 2023. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images) ORIG FILE ID: 1810959779
US First Lady Jill Biden (R) speaks alongside US figure skater Brian Boitano during the unveiling of the holiday ice skating rink, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, on November 29, 2023. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images) ORIG FILE ID: 1810959779

She was happy to watch from a folding chair on the lawn, under heat lamps, as Boitano, a 1988 U.S. Olympic and world champion, spun around the ice. Even a costumed Snoopy had a turn before the rink was turned over to pint-sized hokey players from the league’s “Learn to Play” program.

“Who’s ready to skate!” Biden asked.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jill Biden brings ice rink to the South Lawn of the White House