Think of Zoolights as a bit of a treasure hunt this year.
There are 168 figurines decorated with more than 600,000 twinkling lights and crews have moved many of the scenes so visitors will have to search for their favorites.
The popular holiday event at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma opens Friday (Nov. 25) for its 29th season.
Fan favorites have returned — the 23-foot Mount Rainier, the miniature Tacoma Narrows bridges and a polar bear family — but have found new display areas.
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“Even though it’s the same scene, it can look different in a new spot,” said Chris Boustedt, who has coordinated Zoolights for six years. “This year we strived to make big changes with the scenes so people will be surprised while they’re going around.”
There is an infusion of newness in this year’s event, including two live reindeer hitched to a sleigh to take photos with, the serving of beer and wine at the Plaza Café and a host of new scenes.
A giant octopus greets guests at the front gate and a family of walruses atop ice floes is this year’s big addition.
It took three workers two weeks to finish the walrus scene.
They used more than 6,000 zip ties and 6,790 LED lights to artfully arrange the three walruses, a display created as a nod to the zoo’s two female walruses and Dozer, a male walrus brought in for an attempt at breeding with the girls.
Hanging from a large oak tree are 4 1/2-foot hammerhead shark and green sea turtle ornaments. Three jellyfish can be seen climbing a crane used for constructing the new aquarium. Then there’s a trio of carnivorous plants with flies hanging above.
A 15-foot-high-by-30-foot-wide sealife scene boasting 10,296 lights is suspended from the Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater. Although the display was created last year, it has been redone and includes stingrays, jellyfish, sea horse and a starfish surrounded by kelp and coral.
Boustedt and Justin Pfeiffer, who will take over Zoolights next year, are eager to hear whether the new scenes bring additional ooohs and ahhhs from visitors.
Pfeiffer started working at the zoo in March and said he was surprised by the amount of work that goes into planning new displays and preparing zoo grounds for the holiday lights festival.
“I’ve seen it but it’s a lot more daunting to put up,” he said.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653
If you go
When: 5-9 p.m. Friday (Nov. 25) to Jan. 1. Closed on Dec. 24.
Where: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma
Admission: $5 for zoo members; $8.50 online at pdza.org or at customer service counters of Fred Meyer stores; $10 at the gate
Recycling old holiday lights
Old strings of holiday lights lying around the house can be recycled through mid-January.
People can bring them to Zoolights or drop them off at several locations in Pierce and King counties.
All recycling proceeds benefit walrus conservation.
The recycled lights program was launched eight years ago as the idea of a local Girl Scout.
Before bringing in old light strands, owners are asked to remove all rubber bands and twist ties and put the lights into the bins without boxes or bags.
▪ Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, 11610 Trek Drive E., Eatonville
▪ Metro Parks Tacoma headquarters, 4702 S. 19th St., Tacoma
▪ Tacoma Nature Center, 1919 S. Tyler St., Tacoma
▪ STAR Center, 3973 S. 66th St., Tacoma
▪ Center at Norpoint, 4818 Nassau Ave. NW, Tacoma
▪ Portland Avenue Community Center, 3513 Portland Ave., Tacoma
▪ Peoples Community Center, 1602 S. MLK Jr. Way, Tacoma
Girls Scouts of Western Washington locations
▪ Seattle administrative office, 601 Valley St., Seattle
▪ King County Regional Office, 13029 NE 20th St., Bellevue
▪ North Region Office, 3224 Wetmore Ave., Everett
▪ Peninsula Girl Scout Program Center, 1600 NE Winters Road, Bremerton
▪ DuPont Girl Scout Center, 1000 David Place, DuPont
Call ahead at 800-541-9852 to check hours at the Girl Scout locations.