Zoolights gets magnificent makeover

Renewed, revamped holiday light show opens Friday at Point Defiance

Staff writerNovember 26, 2013 

All the beloved favorites will still shine at Zoolights this year but they're re-imagined.

Some displays have been moved, some have been covered in fresh lights and others have been revamped completely.

“This year will be one of the memorable ones because there are a lot of changes,” said Chris Boustedt, who has coordinated Zoolights for three years. “It’s going to be one of the best Zoolights in a while.”

This is the 26th year for Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s popular holiday festival, which will feature more than 500,000 glittering lights. It opens Friday and runs through Jan. 4.

Regulars will immediately notice the Flame Tree is rooted in a different spot. The old tree was removed because of failing health, so crews wrapped the same 30,000 purple and green lights around a bigger maple tree near the Red Wolf Woods.

The well-known scene of an eagle swooping down on a swimming salmon and snatching its prey now plays out in 3-D so visitors can see it from both sides.

A 20-foot plywood tiger head that hung near the Kids’ Zone rotted, so maintenance crews created a new one out of mesh and thin rods. At 17-feet tall, it’s not quite as large, but it’s studded with many more lights visible from a distance.

The biggest change to an old favorite is Mount Rainier, which rises to 15½ feet. Crews ran out of replacement lights, so they switched to rope lights and miniature bulbs. That opened up new possibilities for a mountain makeover.

Boustedt browsed Google images of the mountain and printed his favorite. He then spent about a week bringing the glaciers on Mount Rainier to life with blue and white LED lights. “It came out awesome,” he said. “We tried to make it as detail-oriented as we can to where a little kid can come up and say, ‘I know what that is.’ ”

Boustedt said there are twice, if not three times, the number of twinkling lights draped across the mountain display.

The newest creation for Zoolights is a polar bear family that stands amid a sea of ice, with ice-skating puffins in the background. The zoo tries to add a new display every year, and this time officials wanted to highlight the endangered bears and keep them at the forefront of people’s minds.

”Polar bears are so important to us because they’ve been the logo animal for the last 20 years,” said zoo Deputy Director John Houck. “They’re also the one animal in our collection that helps us talk about the changes happening in the Arctic.”

Three polar bears – Blizzard, Glacier and Boris – call Point Defiance home.

Zoolights requires year-round planning but crews didn’t begin stringing lights until mid-September. They now are fine-tuning their handiwork and weaving lights along pathways.

In addition to taking in the lights, visitors can also see and touch certain animals. Scuba-diving Santa will make seven appearances, Stingray Cove will remain open and kids are invited to feed the goats at the Kids’ Zone or ride a camel.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653


When: Friday through Jan. 5, except for Dec. 24.

Where: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma

Hours: 5-9 p.m.

Cost: Tickets at the door will cost $4.25 for members or $8.75 for nonmembers.

Discounts: Discounted tickets are available at www.pdza.org or at Fred Meyer stores.

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