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Lincoln Children's Zoo President and CEO John Chapo announces the zoo's new holiday lights show at the zoo on Thursday.

The holidays used to be a bit brighter in Lincoln.

The Boy Scouts would light up Mahoney Park. StarTran would offer Christmas light tours. Downtown would glitter and glisten more, and the Star City Parade would roll down O Street every December.

“But those aren’t happening anymore,” said John Chapo, president and CEO of the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. “There is not a large public display and celebration of the holidays.”

Which is why the zoo has spent the past year buying a mile of extension cords, dozens of animal cutouts and other decorations — and more than 200,000 LED lights. “Colored lights, white lights, animated lights, lights dancing with music,” he said.

And in November, the zoo will unveil what it’s calling one of the Midwest’s biggest displays of holiday lights. It plans to light up its trees and its train and illuminate a 30-foot tunnel. It plans a mile of pathway lights and photo opportunities with animals real and silhouetted.

The setup and take-down alone will take 3,000 hours, Chapo said. “It’s going to be a joyous holiday adventure for families.”

They started planning Zoo Lights Powered by LES more than a year ago, Chapo said. The zoo was doubling its size this year with a $20 million expansion and, for the first time in its 50-year history, would stay open year-round.

“We said, let’s celebrate the zoo with the community. Let’s light it up.”

The nightly display be open in November and December, covering much of the zoo’s expansion and some of its original area. Ticket prices and details will be announced in the coming months, Chapo said.

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News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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