There are Christmas lights, and then there are ZooLights. There is just something about these things that everyone is buzzing about. And, according to the man in charge of the annual production, the show is revamped to be bigger than ever before.

“I can’t tell you how big it really is. It is really breathtaking, and there are so many lights in these trees,” said ZooLights supervisor Kurt Stelling.

Every year, visitors walk trails lined with millions of twinkling lights and stop at the bridge to view the crowd favorite, the dancing tree show. But you won’t have to squish together to see the show this year. Instead of nine trees located only on the bridge, dancing trees now surround the lake.

“We decided to move the show around the lake, and it turned out to be very successful. Now we have over 30 trees, and the sphere in the middle of the lake has long floating tubes that have LED lights on them, and the lights are dancing to ‘Wizards in Winter’ by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It looks like they are moving but they sync to the music,” Stelling said.

He noted that in previous years, visitors watching the tree show often missed the display behind them in the center of the lake. Now, since the show is around the lake, visitors can see everything.

“There is so much activity that you are looking everywhere trying to get it all in,” Stelling said.

He and three other workers have been building the wonderland, full time, since July, and they are still putting it together. Custom-made light displays are designed and created by the staff, and this year there are three new additions: three 10-foot-tall wizards will cast spells on one another while snow falls around them, all a mirage of thousands of lights.

Returning from previous years are 3-D armatures shaped like life-size animals and mythical creatures.

The “Polar Slide” — a tube slide kids enjoy — also returns.

ZooLights has become such a tradition that the staff has made an armature that reads “Will You Marry Me?”

“Every year we have had many marriage proposals,” Stelling said.

Along with the lights, there will be camel rides and horse-drawn carriage rides. Hot chocolate, apple cider, coffee, kettle corn and other snacks will be available.


• Nichole Kowalski is a senior studying journalism at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or

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