Preview of Light the Night in Innisfail

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Ambitious project at Discovery Wildlife Park aims to attract tens of thousands of visitors

INNISFAIL – In less than two months, the grounds of Discovery Wildlife Park will be lit up with dozens of brilliantly lit winter and Christmas exhibits, surrounded by more than 25 kilometers of lights.

The ambitious Light the Night drive-thru project at the zoo has been planned for over a year. Its aim is to rival and even surpass the spectacular wonders seen at similar winter attractions at the Calgary Zoo, the Saskatoon Tree Farm Park and Zoo, and the Airdrie Festival of Lights.

On September 21 and 22, the park held an invitational preview of the exhibits, which are now stored in the new storage building at the southeast corner of the park.

“It’s amazing. It’s going to be awesome. I think it’s going to be breathtaking in the winter when it’s all set up. I think the zoo is going to be a big hit in central Alberta,” said Debbie Daley of the law firm of Evans in Innisfail.

Daley and co-worker Amber Evans agreed the project would also complement the hugely successful Innisfail Festival of Trees which was launched for the community last year.

“I think anything that brings people into town to see what’s going on is definitely a good thing for Innisfail,” Evans said. “They can come to Innisfail, have dinner and see the light display and have a date night or a family night with the kids.”

Park co-owner Doug Bos said he invested more than $100,000 in the project, which includes the thousands of colorful lights and displays now in the newly constructed storage building.

“We do this because there’s not much to do in the winter,” Bos said. “Because it is a drive-thru, if the weather is cold or inclement, visitors can still drive through from the comfort of their cars and watch it. In many other light displays or guided tours, if the weather is not good, no one wants to go out and they miss it.

He said everything would be set up at the park by staff and volunteers immediately after the zoo’s regular season closes on September 30.

Bos said the mile-long Light the Night drive-in exhibit will then be ready for the public on November 19.

The park will offer tethered hot air balloon rides that will soar 100 feet above the park for spectacular views of the brilliant nighttime display below.

“No other festival has this,” said Bos, whose park also includes a miniature train and station that will also be illuminated. “We will also have our concession open with hot chocolates, apple cider and mini donuts. We have a Grinch who will be there to take pictures, and we will also be opening our gift shop.

The Light the Night project, which extends the zoo’s season from five to seven months, will run until January 15, seven days a week.

“We expect at least 10,000 vehicles within the two months of opening. If there are only three people in the car, that translates to 30,000 people,” Bos said. “We plan to get businesses in town involved because we’d like to inspire people to come to town and go see the Innisfail Tree Festival and Hometown Christmas, or come to town and have dinner, then go out and see the lights.”

The cost to view the Light the Night drive-in exhibit will be $30 for a wagonload of visitors. Bos said the cost of a bus full of visitors has yet to be determined.

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