TOLEDO, Ohio — Despite the frigidly cold weather, people of all ages are flocking to the Toledo Zoo for the first evening of a time-honored Toledo tradition: the Lights Before Christmas.
Before the sun began to set and crowds were sparse, a few early-bird families got the run of the zoo to themselves. Joshua, a young boy who sported a pair of round glasses and a bright blue puffer coat, said he went down the ice slide twice.
The aquarium, which is always packed during the zoo lights as crowds seek to escape the cold after dark, was relatively empty early in the evening. Situated on the far end of the zoo, the historic building built as a part of the Works Project Administration during the Great Depression, it's an icon of the institution that melds historicism and the sleek modern glow of an oceanic-themed wonderland. Among the prettiest sights were the shining Christmas lights hanging overtop the soft blue of the tanks as fish swam about.
As the sky got darker, visitors began to congregate near the base of the 85-foot Norway spruce, which would officially kick off the holiday season with its illumination shortly after 6 p.m. Few seemed deterred by the chilly weather and blustery conditions.
Holiday tones were amplified by performances: prior to the tree-lighting, a choir sang carols including "Silent Night," "Jingle Bells," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and more, while actors dressed as characters such as the Grinch and Cindy Lou-Who roamed zoo grounds. Santa, who it would be remiss to forget, was also present.
After a countdown, the enormous evergreen was illuminated, followed by a chorus of "oohs" and "ahhs" while the choir sang "O Christmas Tree." The tree is decorated in thousands of programmable lights that offered an unparalleled display. Though the wind certainly made weather conditions more frigid, it added a bit of mystique when shaking the lights among the pine branches.
In its 37th year, the Lights Before Christmas remains a tradition both near and far. One family said they traveled from 35 miles west of Cleveland to see the tree-lighting, while another family said they have visited at least once per holiday season for the last 15 years.
The Lights Before Christmas will remain open until Dec. 31. For more information, click here.
MORE TOLEDO ZOO LIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS COVERAGE