Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic makes season bright

By Karie Angell Luc for Chronicle Media

In its 37th year, Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo brought out families for photo opportunity seasonal keepsake moments.

“We have over 1 million lights here at the zoo for Holiday Magic,” said Carolyn Wilkin, marketing events manager at Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield. “It’s become a Chicago tradition.”

Kim Salyers (right) of Shorewood takes a photo of (from left) Autumn Salyers, 3, of Shorewood, Fiona Clancy, 6, of Minooka and Lenora Salyers, 5, of Shorewood. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

The last day of Holiday Magic is “Zoo Year’s Eve Dec. 31.

“We see a lot of repeat visitors who came here when they were kids and they are bringing their kids back now too to experience Holiday Magic,” Wilkin said.

Promoted as Chicagoland’s largest and longest running lights festival, the attractions include a skating rink, carolers, a magician and face painting, as examples of amenities.

A walk-in 20-foot illuminated orb had a queue of families waiting for a turn to take photos.

“We’re so excited,” said Stephanie Fugett of Custer Park, who walked through the rainbow orb with her husband Adam Fugett and their child Olivia, 2.

“It’s beautiful,” Stephanie Fugett said, immediately after exiting the orb.

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

The animals were also a main attraction. People waited for the big cats to make an appearance and sang carols to them plus other animals including reindeer.

Lining the walkways leading to outdoor and indoor animal exhibits were holiday trees decorated by corporate and community groups.

“We have just under 600 different groups that come out and decorate, which is wonderful,” Wilkin said.

Admiring the trees past the South Gate was Ryan Miller of Lemont who brought his family.

Many of the trees had handmade ornaments.

“I think the trees are awesome,” Miller said.

The sun sets over the Christmas treetops. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

Special guest appearances were by Santa and Mrs. Claus. Families could pose with them for pictures.

First in line at the Seven Seas Underwater Viewing on Dec. 22 to see Santa and Mrs. Claus was the Lause family of Beecher.

John and Meghan Lause brought their children Finley Lause, 7, a first-grader, Oliver Lause, 8, a third-grader and Gus Lause, 4. The children’s grandparents were also present.

“It’s a great event, very nice for families,” Meghan Lause said.

This was the second year the Lause family attended Holiday Magic.

“My kids love coming here,” the children’s mother said.

The Lause children had Santa wish list items, which included video games.

With Santa and Mrs. Claus are (from left) Finley Lause, 7, a first-grader, Oliver Lause, 8, a third-grader and Gus Lause, 4, of Beecher. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

For Christmas, Finley wants, “a real live unicorn,” the youngster said.

Since there are real reindeer at the zoo’s Hamill Family Wild Encounters attraction, Holiday Magic must attract real, live unicorns, right?

With a smile, about her daughter’s holiday wish, Meghan Lause said, “I guess we’ll keep our fingers crossed and see what happens.”

Also popular year round, with a treat for the holidays, are the classic Mold-A-Rama machines, a plastic figure-making tradition.

There are several Mold-A-Rama machines stationed at various locations in the zoo. Mold-A-Rama Inc. is based in Brookfield.

For $3, people could watch a mold manufacture a colorful keepsake figure.

The aroma of melting plastic triggers memories of adults who remember making the souvenirs as youth while visiting Chicago landmarks and museums, for example.

In the background, real reindeer run around in their pen while carolers sing holiday songs. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer is on right and is dancing. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

At the zoo, holiday designs for a limited time include a choir girl, Santa, a reindeer and a holiday tree, all sought by Mold-A-Rama collectors.

“I love Mold-A-Ramas,” said John Lause. “I collect everything.

“Mold-A-Ramas are great for the kids, it’s a memory that’s generated (when) they look at it that they came to the zoo and saw Santa. It’s a good family feeling.”

Visit Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic

Holiday Magic is free for members.  Not a member? People can join Brookfield Zoo or purchase admission tickets.

Here are the remaining 2018 Holiday Magic dates with some highlights.

Dec. 26
5 p.m. – The Gypsy Wagon Trio
6 p.m. – Those Funny Little People
7 p.m. – Lively Arts Dance
8 p.m. – The Dance Academy

Dec. 27
5 p.m. – Studio 83 Dance Company
6 p.m. – Those Funny Little People
7 p.m. – Impact Dance Studio
8 p.m. – NPD Movers and Shakers Dance Team

Dec. 28
5 p.m. – HOTT Productions Performing Arts Studio
6 p.m. – Those Funny Little People
7 p.m. – The Dance Loft
8 p.m. – Ballet Folklorico Yolotzin

Dec. 29
5 p.m. – McNulty Irish Dancers
6 p.m. – Those Funny Little People
7 p.m. – Elk Grove Park District’s Pavilions Dance Centre
8 p.m. – Elite Academy of Dance

Dec. 30
5 p.m. – Lyons Township High School Color Guard
6 p.m. – Those Funny Little People
7 p.m. – Thistle and Highland Dancers
8 p.m. – Darla’s Dance Center

Dec. 31
5 p.m. – Those Funny Little People
6-8 p.m. – Zoo Year’s Eve!