Mike Marshak juggled and ice skated at the same time for the first time Friday.

Mike Marshak juggled and ice skated simultaneously for the first time Friday. He has juggled and roller bladed before, but never on the slick and frozen.

Few were there to see it.

The Ashland Rotary Centennial Ice Rink opened Friday in rather slushy conditions amid the rain and weather. In its first fully operational year since renovations, this year's skating season looks smoother than ice.

Marshak was in town visiting his daughter and granddaughter from his Crown Point, Ind., home, was the first skater of the season in rather "pondy" conditions. Last year's improvements will be put to the test as the season goes on.

"From what we're told, the rink is much better," said Don Robertson, director of Ashland Parks and Recreation, "Hockey players have told us so, and Tai Babilonia told us so. It is nice, smooth, consistent hard ice."

Although advertised, the opening happened quietly, according to Robertson. Last year, the opening was in late February, surrounded by the ceremonies and hoopla of a grand re-opening.

According to Robertson, weather is always a factor, as the roof-less rink is "always susceptible to the rain, wind and snow."

The traditional Thanksgiving time opening next week leads into the "Black Friday skating session. The day after Thanksgiving, during the Festival of Light is not only a boon for retailers; it is also a magic moment for the rink.

"The night of nights is the Festival of Lights," Robertson said. "It is one of our busiest nights."

Even though the rink is fully renovated, the only thing missing is the old cover, which came down last year, crushed by a falling tree.

The lack of a cover is "a continuing issue." Roberson said. "As far as the cover goes, there are a few considerations to take into account. One is whether or not to have a permanent or temporary cover, the other is cost. If we were to cover it, we would want something more aesthetically pleasing."

As Marshak continued to dodge the puddles and leaves, juggling while skating, he said, "I'm excited the rink is open."