Zoolights brighten holiday spirits - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Community Focus

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Zoolights brighten holiday spirits

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Posted: Saturday, November 26, 2011 3:00 pm

What: More than 3.5 million lights shaped like various zoo animals will be featured.

When: From 6-10 p.m. through Jan. 8

Where: Phoenix Zoo, 455 N. Galvin Parkway

This holiday season the fun begins at night, as residents enjoy the 20th anniversary of ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo.

Since its beginning 20 years ago, the traditional family event draws in people from all over the Valley. This year’s display features more than 3.5 million lights, along with over 600 different light displays that are twinkling now until Jan. 8, from 6 to 10 p.m.

Ashley Wheaton, who works at Go Concessions inside the Phoenix Zoo, said that she has only been to ZooLights twice, but that she enjoyed the experience each time.

“I love the lights most of all, and I will go in the future,” she said.

Betsy Seibert, special events director at the zoo, said that in ZooLights’ inaugural year, roughly 40,000 to 50, 000 people showed up. She said 260,000 to 290,000 have attended in the past few years, and that the numbers fluctuate due to weather conditions. In addition, Seibert said there is a year-round staff of four men who install and create all of the light displays.

Currently, 95 percent of the lights are all LED, she said, and that new armatures are added each year, shaped to look like an array of animals, creatures and desert cacti.

“It is a great time, like many holiday events, for family’s to get together,” Seibert said, adding that surveys distributed in the past indicated that the majority of people enjoy ZooLights because they feel as if it is a tradition.

Another bonus, according to Seibert, is reassuring that guests are not bothered by vendors or booths from outside sellers. It’s just a really nice walk through the zoo to enjoy lights and music.

Holiday excitement doesn’t just end with ZooLights. Seibert said the Phoenix Zoo is adding a new event for adults who want to ring in the New Year. The zoo is hosting its first New Year’s Eve from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Ticket prices for the New Year’s Eve event will also include admission to ZooLights.

“(Guests) can come any time after 6 to enjoy ZooLights, or come a little later at 9:30,” Seibert said. “Three complimentary drinks are given for each ticket price purchase.”

Seibert said there will be a champagne toast at midnight, along with complimentary snacks and appetizers. Party favors, a disc jockey, and an animatronic giraffe will also be a part of the celebration, as well as photo opportunities and various interactive activities throughout the night.

• Kirsten Hillhouse is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.

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