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Kathryn Finegan Clark: By the Way

By the Way: A delightful evening at a small zoo


I had tickets to go to the Winter Light Spectacular at the Lehigh Valley Zoo on opening weekend and it was just my luck to have the temperature drop to the 30s for the first time since last year.
It was cold but the night was clear and a waning moon, still chubby and bright, hovered overhead.
It’s a walk-around adventure, not something seen through the windshield. We had bundled up – and it truly was spectacular, a delight for children and the child within us all.
First, let me say that I love animals and the Lehigh Valley Zoo, although small, is amazing. The best part is its approach, a long, winding, hilly drive through the Trexler Game Preserve where a herd of grazing bison makes you think you’re in the Dakotas.
You won’t see that at night, of course, and you won’t see the zoo animals either but you will be greeted at the entrance by light-trimmed trees so stunning we both hopped out of our car to take pictures.
But that scene was nothing compared with what awaited us inside where we entered and were surrounded by a huge magical landscape of twinkling lights – 1.2 million of them, climbing trees and forming outlines of animals, a tractor, a motorcycle, Cinderella’s coach, a gazebo and classic holiday scenes with Santa, ornaments and a giant gift box.
The reflection of lights outlining the enormous display of the antlered head of a buck danced in the water surrounding the island where a few months ago I had watched a pair of endangered lemurs from Madagascar jumping from branch to branch.
It all seemed so incredible to me, and it felt good to know revenue from the event supports the zoo’s animal conservation projects and programs.

Further down the paved path a real, live Cinderella suddenly appeared, swirling her cape and singing. A crowd gathered and she welcomed children to climb into that sparkling coach for a photo. Other live performers were Belle, Anna and Elsa.
Cartoon characters and little children with flashing sneakers carrying light bars and magic wands roamed the path, which was dotted with torches and fire pits. Along the way were many displays where kids poked their faces through cut-outs for funny photos.
The tickets are timed and it takes a full two hours to see everything while stopping along the way to grab a taco, a hot dog, a slice of pizza, hot chocolate or hot cider and best of all, the s’mores to roast over the blazing fire pits.
This was the eighth annual light show and I’d read USA Today had called it “a holiday light show worth traveling for across America,” so I figured it was worth driving north on Route 309 to Schnecksville in North Whitehall Township, about 45 minutes from Upper Bucks. Also, surprisingly, I overheard a man saying he had driven from Pittsburgh.
I think this year it was especially exciting and soul-satisfying, despite the cold, to get out in the evening with others who were happy and friendly, non-judgmental, no worry about masked or unmasked, no political statements, no sarcasm, no anger, no Archie Bunker attitudes, just enjoyment on their minds. People were bundled up with heavy coats, boots, scarves and woolen caps, and most important, they wore broad smiles.
The light show, presented by Service Electric and sponsored by T-Mobile is scheduled for 35 nights until Jan. 1. Timed tickets may be purchased online at winter light spectacular.