POWELL, Ohio (WCMH) — The planning for Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium begins in the spring, with the crew ramping up in the summer before lights are placed on trees as early as September.
The affair is an all hands-on-deck event, with much of the action taking place in two warehouses where lights are stored and displays are created. For Alexis Vance-Townsend, a grounds and maintenance, she said it is her happy place with at least one new project coming together each year.
Last year, the zoo created and launched the “12 Days of Wildlights” on the train route, a project that Vance-Townsend played a key role. She was tasked with drawing the displays and transforming them into blueprints for the maintenance crew to use as reference when building.
“To know that the sculptures I saw before me were my drawings and they were all up, and everybody could enjoy it on the train, yeah, it was really amazing,” she said.
From the train to the lake, there’s a lot more to Wildlights than just lights.
“The barge is the centerpiece of our lake show.,” said grounds maintenance manager Donivan Harkness. “It takes about five days to construct.”
On top of the barge and 10 smaller barges there are Christmas trees made from lights connected to small computers that make the magic happen during the light show on the lake.
Another fan favorite just down the way, “Jingle Jam” brings children and adults together for an impromptu dance party. Chicken wire balls wrapped in lights are hoisted into the air and are programmed to “dance” to the music.
“Everything is up in the air, so we take a lot of booms and lifts to attach everything up,” said Jenn Baumgarte. “Seeing all the kids jam packed in here, dancing and having fun, it’s just the best.”