After a successful inaugural event last year, the Festival of Illumination returns to Southwick’s Zoo on Sept. 1 with original artistic creations and a new theme, “Once Upon a Time.” New England’s largest lantern showcase will radiate across the zoo grounds through Dec. 31 with depictions of myths, legends and fairy tales that will enchant all ages, says Cindy Lavoie, CFO of Southwick’s Zoo.
The handcrafted Chinese lanterns were made by the Zigong Lantern Group, a team of artisans from China who assembled the 3D displays on-site. This year, visitors will find representations of Chinese folklore, Greek gods, Norse tales and familiar fairy-tale characters. Cinderella, Puss in Boots and the Billy Goats Gruff will adorn the paths alongside legendary figures like dragons, the Loch Ness monster, Poseidon and Medusa.
In addition to the lantern displays, the festival will include strolling performers, Chinese acrobats, a marketplace with a variety of goods and several food stands. The on-site Galliford’s Restaurant and Tavern will feature different menu items matched to the festival theme.
Last year, the festival was particularly popular with families, Lavoie says, but it’s also a unique option for hosting corporate events, whether for employee appreciation parties or VIP customer gatherings.
Starting on Nov. 25, the Festival of Illumination will merge with the zoo’s Winter Wonderland event for a combined walk-through experience featuring the Holiday Light Spectacular. “It will be quite a show!” Lavoie says. The Winter Wonderland will include visits with Santa, train rides and holiday-themed entertainment.
Another event for guests to look forward to is the zoo’s Harvest Festival on Oct. 23 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will feature live music, a beer garden, market vendors, scarecrow-making and special presentations.
Beyond these events, the zoo is open for regular visitors through Oct. 31. Lavoie says Southwick’s new playground has been a “huge hit” and a significant upgrade from the previous structure. The playground is animal-themed and features new components developed for different age groups.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit southwickszoo.com or call 1-800-258-9182.
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