BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - What began as an outdoor hockey game has expanded to three weekends of fun on the ice.
The Binghamton Pond Festival began in 2016 as a weekend-long outdoor hockey tournament founded by Tytus Haller.
Now in it's third year, the event takes place over the course of three weekends featuring three hockey tournaments and a winter festival that includes snow shoeing, hot cocoa, games, and activities for kids along with non-hockey related events like a visit from Animal Adventure, live music, food, and drinks.
Haller says the idea was inspired from a similar event held in Albany.
"I turned to my fiancé and said that this would be something awesome to have in the Binghamton area. There were people traveling from all over the Northeast. It just seemed like something positive and unique that we could have. And when I said that, she told me to do it," said Haller.
The event kicks off this weekend with players from the American Special Hockey Association, an inclusive league that allows kids with special needs to play hockey.
ASHA President Jen O'Brien says the players are ready to take centerstage, or in this case, center ice.
"Special hockey players normally don't have the opportunity to use the best rinks at the best times. But, we really like to play our game. So, having a weekend to ourselves to play special hockey is an extraordinary experience and it's our version of the best Outdoor Classic," said O'Brien.
State Senator Fred Akshar provided $150,000 in grant funding to purchase a state-of-the-art chilling system, the same technology used to cool the ice during the NHL Winter Classic.
A USA Hockey sanctioned youth tournament takes places January 19 through January 21.
Finally, an adult hockey weekend, featuring another tournament, will take place on January 26 through January 28.
It's free to attend, but a $10 donation is suggested, with proceeds benefiting the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier.
For a full list of events, log on to BingPondFest.com.