Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that 81,798 people visited the 10th Annual Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular at Turtle Back Zoo and more than 18 tons of non-perishable food, clothing and toys were collected for those in need.
Both the attendance and amount of items collected were the second most in the event’s 10-year history.
“It is humbling to see the large number of items dropped off at the Holiday Lights Spectacular to assist the less fortunate,” DiVincenzo said. “These donations show the generous spirit and caring that exists in our community and certainly helped make a difference during the holiday season to those who need assistance. We offered free admission to the Holiday Lights as a way to give back to our residents and make the event available to everyone, and we thank our visitors for their extraordinary generosity to help the less fortunate.”
The 81,798 visitors at the Holiday Lights Spectacular was the second largest attendance figure for the event, behind the 131,594 people who came in 2015. The 18 tons of items collected also was the second most in history, again behind the 25 tons collected in 2015.
This past winter, 36,435 pounds, more than 18 tons, of non-perishable food was collected for the Community FoodBank of NJ. In addition, 3,600 new toys and 4,600 winter coats were collected.
These items were donated to Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, Beula Bible Cathedral in Newark, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office Toy Drive, Foster and Adoptive Family Services in Monmouth Junction, Iglesia Cristiana Emanuel in Newark, Ivy Hill Elementary School Kid’s Closet in Newark, Jersey Battered Women’s Shelter, Late Bloomer Project, Inc. in Newark, Milagros Angels in Newarki, NJPAC Toy and Coat Drive to benefit La Casa De Don Pedro in Newark, Oasis-A Haven for Women and Children, the East Orange YMCA, The Unforgotten Haven in Blackwood and Willing Heart Community Center in Newark.
This was the seventh year that visitors were asked to make a donation to help the less fortunate, and donations collected over the years have amounted to over 67 tons of non-perishable food, 339,630 toys and 17,968 winter 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. Over one million lights illuminated figures of giraffes, bears, tigers and elephants, along with holiday lights designed to look like wooden soldiers, stars and winter scenes. Recent exhibits and upgraded facilities added at Turtle Back continually attract visitors.
For additional information, call 973-731-5800 or visit www.essexcountynj.org.