Family Time: See 200,000 points of light — this weekend at Oxbow
Welcome in winter at the Friends of Oxbow Park’s ZooDazzle. Fun for all ages, the annual event is geared to get every member of the family outdoors and into the fun.
“The entire zoo is lit up with over 200,000 Christmas lights. We draw a few thousand guests over the two days,” said Seanne Buckwalter, Friends of Oxbow Park board member. “We start planning in September and put the lights up a week or two before the event. The amount of time and the number of volunteers it takes to put the lights up is absolutely remarkable. The lights, and the volunteers, are truly amazing.”
And if walking around the zoo and looking at the lights gets your little ones a little chilly, families are invited to warm up at one of the two outdoor bonfires or head inside.
“Elsa and Olaf will be inside a huge inflatable igloo and Santa and Mrs. Claus will be inside the shed. There are holiday photo opportunities with both,” Buckwalter said. “Up in the pines in the log cabin-type building north of the nature center, we’ll have a wood-burning stove going and free cookies and cider.”
The evening also offers an opportunity to show your support (financial and otherwise) of the Friends of Oxbow. Founded in the early 1980s, the nonprofit’s year-round work supports the educational, environmental and recreational goals of Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo. Through the years, the group has donated more than $750,000 to Oxbow Park and has helped make many park and zoo improvements possible, including a new otter exhibit (2004), new wildcat exhibit (2012) and natural playscape (2015).
“Admission to the park and zoo are free, as is admission to ZooDazzle,” Buckwalter said. “There is the opportunity to financially support Friends of Oxbow at ZooDazzle by buying an Oxbow Park medallion in the shed. They are a family favorite. We offer a new one every year and a lot of families collect them all. We’ll also have a silent auction inside the nature center. You can sign up to become a member of Friends of Oxbow. Or we’ll also take donations. It’s a balance of hosting a really fun, free family event, with trying to make a little money to support our ongoing work. We appreciate all the individuals and local businesses that help make all of this possible.”