INNISFAIL – In less than two months the grounds at Discovery Wildlife Park will be lit with dozens of brilliantly lit wintertime and Christmas displays that are surrounded by more than 25 kilometres of lights.
The ambitious Light the Night drive-thru project at the zoo has been planned for more than a year. Its goal is to rival and even surpass the spectacular wonder seen at similar wintertime attractions at the Calgary Zoo, Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo and the Airdrie Festival of Lights.
On Sept. 21 and 22 the park hosted an invitational sneak peek for the displays, 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 wintertime when it's all set together. I think the zoo is going to be a big hit in Central Alberta,” said Debbie Daley of Evans Law Office in Innisfail.
Daley and her work colleague Amber Evans agreed the project will also complement the immensely successful Innisfail Festival of Trees that was launched last year for the community.
“I think anything that brings people into town to see everything that is put on is definitely a good thing for Innisfail,” said Evans. “They can come to Innisfail, have supper and see the light display and have a date night out or a family night out with the kids.”
Park co-owner Doug Bos said he has invested more than $100,000 into the project, which includes the thousands of lights and colourful displays now in the recently constructed storage building.
“We're doing this because there's not a lot for people to do in the wintertime,” said Bos. “Because this is a drive-thru, if the weather is cold or not great, visitors still can drive through in the comfort of their car and look at it. At a lot of other light displays or walkthroughs, if the weather isn't great nobody wants to go out and they miss it.”
He said everything will be set up in the park by staff and volunteers immediately after the zoo closes its regular season on Sept. 30.
Bos said the mile-long Light the Night drive-thru display will then be ready for the public on Nov. 19.
The park will be offering tethered hot air balloon rides that will rise high 100 feet above the park for spectacular views of the brilliant night time light display below.
“No other festival has that,” said Bos, whose park is also featuring a miniature train and station that will also be lit up. “We'll also have our concession open with hot chocolates, apple cider, and mini donuts. We have a Grinch that's going to be there to do photos, and we're going to have our gift shop open as well.”
The Light the Night project, which is extending the zoo’s season from five to seven months, will run until Jan. 15, seven days a week.
“We're expecting at least 10,000 vehicles in the two months that we're going to be open. If there is only three people in the car that translates into 30,000 people,” said Bos. “We're planning to get businesses in town to come on board because we would like to promote people to come to town and go see the Innisfail Festival of Trees and Hometown Christmas, or come to town and have dinner and then come out and see the lights.”
The cost to see the Light the Night drive-thru display will be $30 for a carload of visitors. Bos said the cost for a busload of visitors has not yet been determined.