More than 17.5 tons of non-perishable food – 35,952 pounds – was collected during the first three weeks of the Holiday Lights Spectacular at Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange. That amount has already exceeded the record 16.6 tons of food collected during all of last year’s Holiday Lights Spectacular.
“Each winter we present the Holiday Lights Spectacular with free admission as a way of saying thank you to our visitors and giving back to the community, and all we ask is that they donate items to help the less fortunate,” says Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. “The generosity of the visitors coming to the zoo has been overwhelming and will go a long way to making a difference this holiday season.”
The 17.5 tons of food collected has been donated to the Community Food Bank of NJ. In addition, 8,000 new toys and 200 winter coats have been distributed to the following organizations: St. John’s Soup Kitchen in Newark, Circle of Love Childcare, East Orange YMCA, Oasis – A Haven for Women and Children in Paterson, True Word Church, Iglesia Cristiana Emanuel in Newark, the Jersey Battered Women’s Shelter and the Essex County Sheriff’s Toy Drive.
In 2014, there was 16.6 tons of non-perishable food collected along with 7,780 toys and 3,671 coats.
About 50 animal and holiday-themed figures lit up the winter night in Turtle Back Zoo and the surrounding Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex. More than 100,000 lights illuminated figures of bears, tigers and elephants, along with holiday lights designed to look like wooden soldiers, stars and winter scenes. The Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular was sponsored by Covanta Energy, PSE&G, the Zoological Society of New Jersey and the Essex County Parks Foundation.
Regular hours for Turtle Back Zoo are daily from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Regular admission during the day is $10 for children and senior citizens, $13 for adults and free for children under two years. For additional information, call 973-731-5800 or visit www.essexcountynj.org.