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Arts & Culture

Winter Light Spectacular 'on track' for record-setting attendance into final weekend

NORTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. — For weeks, more than a million lights have covered Lehigh Valley Zoo for the 10th annual Winter Light Spectacular.

And as the nonprofit gears up for the show’s final weekend, Lehigh Valley Zoo Chief Operating Officer Matthew Provence said it is “on track” to reach record attendance, with 50,000 tickets sold.

“We've steadily grown over the 10 years,” Provence said. “So that's what we're really excited about — it's not on the decline, even though it's been here for 10 years. If anything, it's on the uptick.”

Winter Light Spectacular 2023
Olivia Marble
The lights at the Winter Light Spectacular.

The Winter Light Spectacular features 1.2 million lights in holiday displays, fire pits for s’mores, hot chocolate and live performances by princesses Anna, Elsa, Belle and Cinderella.

The event also provided photo opportunities with Santa up until Christmas, but not after. Provence said Santa already has gone back to the North Pole.

The last day of this year’s show is Sunday, Dec. 31. On that day, the princesses will host the first-ever New Year’s Eve Princess Party with performances, interactive activities and games.

How 2023 has gone

Provence said the zoo has had to cancel the event several times in the 2023 season because of rain. But he said the weather has generally been good in other ways.

“The weather for the most part actually has been kind of unseasonably warm for the event, and there hasn't been a lot of wind," he said. "So it's been very pleasant.”

The increased attendance levels also led to a new benchmark: the 500,000th visitor to the lights display since its inception, Provence said.

Olivia Marble
The interactive Toy Story exhibit at the Winter Light Spectacular.

The company that puts up the lights, Orefield-based Christmas Decor, adds new elements to the lights show each year.

This year, the biggest new display is Toy Story-themed, which Provence said has been “very popular.”

“There’s a couple of interactive elements that the kids really enjoy,” Provence said.

‘Mission of conservation’

The zoo is on the grounds of Trexler Nature Preserve, which was founded in 1906 by General Harry C. Trexler, according to the zoo’s website.

Construction began on the 29-acre zoo in 1974 while it was owned by Lehigh County. In 2004, Lehigh Valley Zoological Society took over managing it.

“All the funds that we raise… goes back to the maximum optimal welfare for our animals."
Lehigh Valley Zoo Chief Operating Officer Matthew Provence

Provence said many forget that Lehigh Valley Zoo is a nonprofit, and Winter Light Spectacular is a fundraiser for it.

“All the funds that we raise… goes back to the maximum optimal welfare for our animals — being able to buy them the right food and keep more staff year-round full-time, so that the care is optimized for animals in our mission of conservation,” Provence said.

Lehigh Valley Zoo recently announced it will add a new red panda exhibit in 2024.