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Texas Zoo's Holiday Lights Event Draws Crowd

By Gheni_Platenburg
Dec. 10, 2010 at 6:10 a.m.

Dominick Castrejon, 7, checks out the lights on the front of the Baird's Tapir exhibit Friday evening during the Holiday Lights event at the Texas Zoo. Visitors can view the lights at the zoo from 6 pm to 9 pm on Saturday as well as Dec. 17 and Dec. 18.

Jackson Altuna hardly jumped around with excitement upon seeing an inflatable Santa Claus near the entrance of the Texas Zoo's Holiday Lights event.

"I like all the colors," said the smiling 6-year-old as he pulled his Dad's hand toward a string of overhead lights. "I really like the blue lights."

Jackson and his Dad were just one of several families partaking in the first night of the zoo's first annual holiday event.

"Jackson loves to come to the zoo so when they said they would have lights at the zoo, I thought he would really like it," said Victoria resident Ronnie Altuna, 55. "The big Santa caught him by surprise."

The holiday lights event will span two weekends, during which time visitors can stroll throughout the zoo listening to holiday music and viewing light displays, cut outs and Christmas-related inflatable's assembled by zoo staff and 10 local businesses.

"Before 6 p.m., there were big groups of people waiting outside," said Andrea Blomberg, executive director of the zoo. "It did my heart good to see that."

Blomberg expected a turnout of a couple hundred visitors the first night and some 500 to 1,000 on Saturday, she said.

"There are all these wonderful lights and sounds. People are really having a good time," she said.

Attendees should not expect to see many animals out during the late-night event, as it is past many of the animals' bedtimes, Blomberg said.

However, Friday night guests were able to view the owls, which are nocturnal, as well as the zoo's Baird's tapir, who decided to stay up late and enjoy guests while he chomped on a late-night snack.

"It's about the lights tonight," said Blomberg.

The event went over well with attendees.

"I like all of (the displays) and the elves, even though they weren't real," said 4-year-old Inez resident Riley Alebis.

"Instead of plain, it's this," said 11-year-old Victoria resident Elijah Catrejon as he pointed to the light displays to get his point across. "It's unusual for them to have this."

Blomberg said the zoo is already making plans to do things bigger and better for next year.

"Hopefully, by next year it will be able to grow and grow."



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