The ZOO Northwest Florida might be closed this holiday, but the highly anticipated ZOO Lights will be on display on Pensacola Beach.
Members of the Soundside Merchants Association on Pensacola Beach have donated $5,000 to rent the 38-piece light display. The money will go to food for the animals as well as staff to care for them.
“We wanted to keep the tradition going,” said Mike McLaughlin of Lee Tracy Boutique on the beach boardwalk. “They had been doing it for about 18 years and we just think it’s a good think for the community and also to bring people out to the beach.”
Terry Whitman, operations manager for the zoo, created each display, which grew in numbers over the years.
Roughly 20,000 – 30,000 people visited to zoo to see the lights, but this year they’ll be able to see them free on the beach, McLaughlin said.
“I think its a good idea and its always been very popular,” said Pat Quinn, zoo director emeritus and co-founder of Animal Park Inc. “It was a very large investment in those zoo lights and the people on beach realized assets zoo had. Their interest in the zoo is refreshing.”
McLaughlin said there will be a grand lighting ceremony the day after Thanksgiving.
“This is a two-part thing, too, because we will have opportunities for people visiting to donate to the zoo,” he added. “It’s a great thing for this community and I hope it reopens.”