All Hands on Deck to Deck the Halls this Year for PNC Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo

Posted November 4, 2020

Employees, board members, volunteers, and elves pitch in to hang lights

CINCINNATI (November 4, 2020) – When the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden reopened in June, after being closed for three months, full-time employees from every department stepped up to fill in wherever needed in order to welcome guests back.  Even Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard took a few shifts patrolling the parking lot until the Zoo was able to re-hire seasonal staff to cover operational positions.  Now, he and other roll-up-your-sleeves type Zoo team members have traded in safety vests for light-hanging poles so they can help make the park shine bright for the 38th annual PNC Festival of Lights, which opens to the public on November 21, 2020.

“Hanging three million lights is a huge undertaking, and we needed a little extra manpower to get the job done this year,” said Maynard.  “We asked each department to adopt a section of the Zoo.  The scientists placed every bulb precisely where it was supposed to go, the education team is still discussing the best approach to hanging, and the IT team built a robot to do the hanging for them! Jokes aside, a universal spirit of teamwork, pride and friendly competition was fun to witness.”

Board members, volunteers, and corporate groups have also pitched in, paying close attention to instructions and bins labeled “purple”, “green”, “red”, etc… making sure that the lighting designer’s vision is carried out! One industrious elf decorated the entire Twinkle Tunnel in 15 minutes.

     “I got a full 45 minutes of sleep last night, so I was well rested and ready to hang lights,” said Jeff Walton, Cincinnati Zoo’s human resources director and chief holiday spirit officer. “I also ate a good breakfast complete with the four food groups – candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup!”

Named the #1 Zoo Lights display in the country by USA Today for the past two years, the PNC Festival of Lights will once again be transformed into a wild wonderland when the sun goes down.  Zoo hours will change starting November 21, opening at 1 p.m. and closing at 9 p.m., and reservations will still be required in order to limit attendance. Visitors who want to see animals should make reservations for time slots between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.  The nights are all about the lights!

Other 2020 PNC Festival of Lights highlights include socially-distanced visits with Santa in an outdoor setting starting at 4 p.m. daily through December 23, three s’more stations, giant animal lanterns, rides on the North Polar Express train, Fiona fairy statues hidden in Fiona’s Fairyland, and photo opportunities all over the Zoo!

For more information on dates and activities, visit the PNC Festival of Lights events page. Masks are required in all buildings and congested areas.  For the most up to date information on the Zoo’s health and safety policies, click here.