John Ball Zoo lights up the night


GVL / Meghan Landgren

Parker Learman-Blaauw, Staff Writer

Kicking off at the beginning of Sept., the John Ball Zoo has begun hosting a special nightly event every Wednesday through Sunday evening. 

Offering patrons and newcomers an exciting experience most participants otherwise might not get to see, the zoo has created an enticing and visually stimulating trip through the grounds at night, without even the animals on display. 

“IllumiZoo Wild Hues,” the name of the Zoo’s evening entertainment, boasts a mile-long stroll through the zoo’s walking paths, flanked on all sides by eye-catching lights and featuring a ponderous synth-laden soundtrack to further engage the senses.

Tom Peters, one of the many employees standing along to guide travelers through the darker areas of the path, spoke about the project from the employee’s perspective. 

“We wanted to give people a chance to see the zoo in an all-new light,” Peters said. “But really, I think it’s pretty cool to see the place lit up like this.”

Those wanting to attend should remember the sun will be fully down and the wind can add quite a chill. Some of the teeth-chattering was audible from several feet away.

The trail weaves through the normal walking paths patrons would see during a normal daytime visit, but none of the Zoo’s usual attractions are on display, which is to say the walk is after all of the animals settle in for the night.

There can be one surprise visit from an animal friend on the walk, however, as the nocturnal Snowy Owl excitedly flies around its enclosure as patrons make their way by. 

Instead of the real animals prancing about, many of the empty enclosures house different light displays, creating beautiful visuals from flowers to campfires.

Visitors shouldn’t be alarmed, however, as the brilliant colors and hues set up around the Zoo vividly paint the park, lighting the path in a unique way. 

The hues are cast across the ground and up into the trees and foliage, creating an ethereal, almost haunting atmosphere, perfect for the kind of late-night thinking spurred on by the artistry on display within the Zoo.

The event can appeal to all age demographics because of the wide swath of artistic expression found within the exhibit. An interactive LED wall kept younger audiences occupied while parents were able to wait in line for the beer garden and other refreshments. 

The Gift Shop was also open, as well as a few bathroom buildings. 

“We really wanted to make something for everyone,” said Maria Bruenez, another employee of the zoo. 

The designated path runs the opposite direction of last year’s IllumiZoo events and features new and reworked sections so that even veteran John Ball patrons can experience something new this year.

The entire walk only takes about 20 to 30 minutes and is easily accessible to all ages and abilities, including wheelchair access and discounts for children, seniors and college students.

On the nights it’s running, the Wild Hues attraction opens at 8:00 P.M. and while tickets are available at the door, the Zoo encourages potential visitors to purchase their tickets ahead of time to ensure they get a chance to engage with all of the fun additions Wild Hues has to offer.