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'Let's light it up' — Lincoln Children's Zoo plans 200,000-bulb holiday display

'Let's light it up' — Lincoln Children's Zoo plans 200,000-bulb holiday display


The holidays used to be a bit brighter in Lincoln.

The Boy Scouts would light up Mahoney Park. StarTran would offer Christmas light tours. Downtown would glitter and glisten more, and the Star City Parade would roll down O Street every December.

“But those aren’t happening anymore,” said John Chapo, president and CEO of the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. “There is not a large public display and celebration of the holidays.”

Which is why the zoo has spent the past year buying a mile of extension cords, dozens of animal cutouts and other decorations — and more than 200,000 LED lights. “Colored lights, white lights, animated lights, lights dancing with music,” he said.

And in November, the zoo will unveil what it’s calling one of the Midwest’s biggest displays of holiday lights. It plans to light up its trees and its train and illuminate a 30-foot tunnel. It plans a mile of pathway lights and photo opportunities with animals real and silhouetted.

The setup and take-down alone will take 3,000 hours, Chapo said. “It’s going to be a joyous holiday adventure for families.”

They started planning Zoo Lights Powered by LES more than a year ago, Chapo said. The zoo was doubling its size this year with a $20 million expansion and, for the first time in its 50-year history, would stay open year-round.

“We said, 'Let’s celebrate the zoo with the community. Let’s light it up.'”

The nightly display will be open in November and December, covering much of the zoo’s expansion and some of its original area. Ticket prices and details will be announced in the coming months, Chapo said.

Lincoln Children's Zoo through the years

Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter.


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