MEMPHIS, Tennessee — The Memphis Zoo is bringing the holiday spirit to the Mid-South with the start of its annual Zoo Lights event which opens Friday night.
Stepping into the Memphis Zoo, guests are automatically transported to a winter wonderland. Lights and a massive tree decorate the entrance with "snow" falling down onto guests.
More than one million lights make up the annual event. Workers have to begin putting up the displays in mid-October to get it ready in time.
“We’re thankful we’re still able to host the event and we’re going to do it safely and with Christmas just around the corner, holidays right around the corner, it’s pretty exciting to get to showcase all the new displays that we have for this year too," Nick Harmeier, Memphis Zoo Chief Marketing Officer, said.
COVID-19 will mean some changes for the event. For starters, there will be no ice skating rink. Capacity is also limited to 3,500 guests during Zoo Lights. The zoo encourages tickets are bought in advance to secure a spot.
But there will be new additions as well including new displays, a marketplace for local vendors, horse carriage ridges with smores and this year's Santa will bring joy to kids behind a plexiglass barrier.
Harmeier said Zoo Lights is the zoo's largest fundraising opportunity of the year. They hope it can help after an already strained year for everyone.
“We’re very fortunate that we’re outdoors that a majority of this is outdoors and we’ve had a beautiful fall so hopefully this will continue to help us out a bit," he said.
Masks are required to be worn inside zoo buildings and on the tram. They are recommended while walking around.
Zoo Lights lasts about 30 nights. It kicks off Friday night with a socially distance tree lighting ceremony beginning at 5:30 p.m.
For more information on Zoo Lights, visit the Memphis Zoo website here.