WINCHESTER — The Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum's newest attraction could leave you with bumps, bruises and a big smile on your face.

A new sock-skating rink has been installed on the roof of the museum at 19 W. Cork St., but you'll have to act quickly if you want to try it out because it will only be there until the end of the year.

"When I first came here last year, we were saying, 'People don't go up on the roof a lot, and we don't get a lot of engagement in the wintertime,'" said Dawn Devine, who has served as executive director of the nonprofit Discovery Museum since August 2019.

The solution, Devine said, was a skating rink.

"I moved here from Minnesota, so I thought we would just flood the roof," she said with a laugh.

That probably would have been a bad idea. Not only would the weight of the water put a structural strain on the three-story, 14,400-square-foot building's rooftop terrace, Winchester's relatively mild winters could prevent the water from freezing into a permanent sheet of ice.

"Rick [Mabe, the museum's facilities manager] said, 'I think I've seen something that you could do without water,'" Devine said. "So he started researching and found this."

The floor of the museum's new sock-skating rink is made of heavy-duty plastic, most of which is encircled by a wall that hockey fans would refer to as "the boards" that prevents users from sliding off the rink and onto the museum's concrete roof.

It's not a full-size skating rink — the museum's rooftop terrace isn't big enough for that — but it has plenty of room for up to 20 people to slide around at the same time.

"Oh my gosh, it's so fun," Devine said.

Money is extremely tight for the museum this year because the COVID-19 pandemic closed the facility for several months and continues to restrict its hours of operation. Regardless, Devine said she pushed for the sock-skating rink because the community desperately needs a holiday break from the nonstop negativities of 2020.

"Our goal was to get $20,000 [in sponsorships] to pay for it. We ended up with a little over $18,000," Devine said.

That was enough, she said, so the rink was bought and scheduled for delivery. It arrived on Monday, a few days later than expected, and Devine and three other employees worked late into a cold, blustery Tuesday night to assemble all the pieces.

They soon realized that for safety reasons, a staff member or volunteer would have to be present whenever the rink was in use. Unfortunately, the museum had to recently lay off some staffers due to pandemic-related budgetary shortfalls, and many of its volunteers are no longer able to help out due to coronavirus concerns, so Devine determined there wouldn't be enough people on hand to supervise the attraction for the entire winter.

"We'll keep it open until January 1st, depending on how much support we get, and then we'll close it and reopen again each year, probably from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day," Devine said.

Users will have to pay a $3 upcharge on top of the museum's standard $9 admission fee. The admission fee is waived for people who purchase annual museum memberships, but everyone will have to pay the extra $3 if they want to skate.

The Discovery Museum is hosting a special premier event today called "Sock Skating in the Sky." Customers can purchase tickets online at discoverymuseum.net for two skating sessions — the first from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., the second from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Tickets, which will not be sold at the door, are $12 each and include general admission to the museum. All visitors must wear face masks and adhere to the museum's COVID-19 safety precautions.

Devine has a pro tip for aspiring skaters: "Wear two pairs of socks," she said. "The fluffier, the better."

To learn more about the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum and to purchase admission tickets, visit discoverymuseum.net. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all tickets to the museum must be purchased in advance.

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

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