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The light stuff: Toledo Zoo gets in the fall spirit with Luminous Nights

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    An illuminated scene during the month-long 'Luminous Nights' event.

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    Zhao Hui of China looks at an illuminated lantern while visiting the month-long 'Luminous Nights' event at the Toledo Zoo.

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    Izaic De La Cruz, left, 5, and Dalia De La Cruz, right, 10, of Toledo look at the lights during the month-long 'Luminous Nights' event.

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    An illuminated lantern scene at 'Luminous Nights.'

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    An illuminated lantern scene during the month-long 'Luminous Nights' event at the Toledo Zoo. The lanterns are all handmade by Chinese artisans.

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    Yuan Southworth of Toledo and her father Zhao Hui of China look at the illuminated lanterns.

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    An illuminated lantern scene during the month-long 'Luminous Nights' event at the Toledo Zoo on October 2, 2017.

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    A woamn is in silhouette against an illuminated lantern.

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    An illuminated lantern scene during the month-long 'Luminous Nights' event at the Toledo Zoo.

    The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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  • MAG-LUMINOUS-08-9

    An illuminated lantern during the month-long 'Luminous Nights' event. Luminous Nights run through Oct. 29.

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    Laura Cedoz of Pemberville is in silhouette against an illuminated lantern scene.

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  • MAG-LUMINOUS-08-11

    An illuminated lantern scene during the month-long 'Luminous Nights' event. The Toledo Zoo event is more or less an autumnal version of the its ever-popular Lights Before Christmas.

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The 500 bright, colorful lanterns that make up Toledo Zoo’s ongoing event, Luminous Nights, dazzle and entrance.

Which makes them irresistible to 21st-century shutterbugs. On this first Sunday of October, at least, the Luminous Nights exhibits of animal and plant lanterns — a range of small to towering metal frames with skins of thin, colored fabric stretched taut and illuminated by the glow of interior LED lights — enticed onlookers to whip out their phones-as-cameras and snap away.

"We think it's awesome," said Yuan Southworth, 35, who is from China and now lives in Toledo.

She and her family were drawn to the lanterns, all handmade by Chinese artisans, in particular those that reminded her of home, such as panda, bamboo, and water lily lanterns.

"It’s the whole reason we came here," she said. "It's the Chinese style."

Ms. Southworth’s father, 72-year-old Zhao Hui, was the most eager of the bunch to see the light exhibit. He was dressed and ready for the show an hour before everyone else in the family. And as they made their way through the zoo, he grinned as his daughter pushed him in a wheelchair to each lantern exhibit. The grin grew into a wide smile as they paused to take photos of him in front of the bright lights.

“It's wonderful,” Hui said through his daughter’s translation. “Fabulous.”

Luminous Nights, which will run through Oct. 29, is more or less an autumnal version of the zoo’s ever-popular Lights Before Christmas, only with more animals and plants rather than lights strung up in trees and bushes. The hope for the zoo is that Luminous Nights will meet with a similar response as Lights Before Christmas and grow into another must-do seasonal activity for area residents.

Snapping photos of her 3-year-old granddaughter, Lainey Nesper of Chicago, Mary Nesper, 62, of Perrysburg, was an enthusiastic supporter of the October lights and marveled at their unexpected beauty.  

“I had no idea it would be like this,” she said. “I had no idea there would be this much.”

Even before she reached the halfway point of the display, Ms. Nesper was certain her first visit to Luminous Nights would not be her last.

“[Lainey] just had a baby sister,” she said. “So we can’t wait for her to come next year.”

Contact Kirk Baird at: kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734. 

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