Saturday, November 22, 2003

Weather delightful for zoo spectacle



By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Karrie and Randy Elbert of Independence carry their children, Kyle, 5, and Danielle, 3, at the Festival of Lights preview Friday.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
| ZOOM |
AVONDALE - It may feel a little like spring outside, but the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden looks more like the North Pole after stringing up 2.5 million lights and more than 50 light sculptures for its 21st annual Festival of Lights.

The event starts tonight.

About 75,000 light bulbs have been replaced since July, when zoo crews started preparing.

The extension cords used in the display would reach from Cincinnati to Tennessee if they were stretched end to end.

A 50-foot fountain with lights at Swan Lake is new this year.

Most of the zoo's 510 animal species can be viewed during the festival, since they have both indoor and outdoor housing.

Two live reindeer, Dasher and Dancer, are also on display.

IF YOU GO
Admission: $11.50 for adults; $9 for seniors; $6 children (ages 2-12), children under age 2 free. Parking is additional.
Dates: Through November: Friday, Saturday and Sunday; Dec. 3-14: Wednesday through Sunday; Dec. 15-Jan. 3: every day.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 5-8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 5-9 p.m.
Closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve.
Hundreds packed the festival Friday night for a media preview, which included an opening ceremony, tree lighting and visit from Santa Claus. Carolers, music and the smell of roasted almonds bombarded guests.

"This weather is beautiful. I don't need the snow yet," said Leroy Craycraft, 50, of Amelia. "This (event) really gets me in the holiday spirit. It makes me think of Christmas and shopping, shopping, shopping."

Cornell Murray, 69, of Cheviot, stood at the edge of Swan Lake enjoying the view with friends.

"We're glad it's warm and we're not freezing," she said. "The lights are simply gorgeous, and it's good to see all the little kids enjoying themselves."

E-mail kaldridge@enquirer.com




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