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Light the Night in Innisfail ends season by looking ahead

Inaugural two-month long holiday season light show at Innisfail’s Discovery Wildlife Park attracts 26,000 visitors and plenty of optimism for the future
The Grinch in the administration building at Innisfail's Discovery Wildlife Park for the new Light the Night display that attracted 26,000 visitors in its inaugural two-month long season. Zoo owners and staff are already planning for next year. Johnnie Bachusky/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – Doug Bos could not be happier when the half million lights at his zoo were shut off last month.

His ambitious two-month long inaugural Light the Night show had ended but he and his staff are already planning for next year.

 “As we speak we are building new light displays,” said Bos, the co-owner of Discovery Wildlife Park, told the Albertan on Feb. 1. “One of the biggest things that made me the happiest was the comments we got from the public, saying how much Innisfail needed this and thanking us for doing it. The public appreciation was just overwhelming.

 “One of the comments we've been getting from everybody is that you can't see it all the first time. There's just so much there,” he added.

He said on Feb. 1 that 95 per cent of the 15,000 feet of lights, displays and signage from the Light the Night display have been taken down.

“It was definitely worth it. We will be doing it again,” said Bos.

The inaugural Light the Night show, which had been planned for almost two years and cost more than $100,000 to get off the ground, ran seven days a week from Nov. 19 to Jan. 18.

The light show featured more than 25 kilometres of strings of lights and more than a score of colourful, unique light displays.

Last year he initially hoped to attract 10,000 vehicles with up to 30,000 people at $30 a car-load to tour the two-kilometre route of magic and wonder that boasted at least half a million individual lights.

In the end Bos said the final figures showed a total of about 6,000 vehicles came through with 26,000 visitors. The estimated total revenue was about $180,000.

What was also important was that the light show proved to be a tourist destination for out of town visitors, with many coming from Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray and B.C.

 “Some of our regular customers flew in from Fort McMurray to come and see the lights and some flew in from Kamloops,” said Bos. “It was amazing where the people come from. It wasn't all local people.”

Thousands of local and regional citizens did come though and the Light the Night attraction not only proved to be a success for Innisfail but a project Bos believes is worth continuing, as well as one that will evolve and grow.

“Definitely happy. Definitely happy. There's no doubt about it. We are going to grow it,” said Bos.  “One of our plans is to add hay rides to it. We tried to do hot air balloon rides but that did not work out due to the weather. So next year we want to do hay rides where we are in control of that. It’s not so weather sensitive.”

He said Light the Night also presented the opportunity to hire six additional workers, and keep three more staff members employed instead of being laid off.

“So, it was very successful that way because keeping those people on full time instead of seasonal was a huge asset,” said Bos.

As for the next regular season at Discovery Wildlife Park, gates will open on May 1.