Colorful, glowing replicas with a Chinese twist? Strolling through darkness surrounded by exotic animals? Que romantico!
Okay—Zoominations wasn’t exactly an evening stroll on the beach but it was still an unusual and exciting experience to stand close to these art works shining against the shadows. What is it about bright lights inside colorful figures that render us happy and child–like? Deep red flowers as tall as me lined a pathway while we gazed up at a slinky dragon towering above us. The park’s carousel was bordered by playful pandas in a bamboo forest.
Zoominations was created by Chinese artists from the Sichuan Province and is coming to an end as a temporary exhibit at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. These sculpted lanterns collect into dozens of scenes spread throughout the zoo. While some can’t be touched, I delicately brushed one on the path and felt colored fabric against a strong skeleton.
Our Saturday visit provided chaos from the moment of parking. Although there were ample spaces, the lots were a battle of cars trying to weave past ignorant families. But the large, looming Chinese Gate greeting guests prior to entry assured us of the shining treats waiting within. Ticket lines were long, slow and didn’t provide ample signage allowing those holding print-at-home tickets to skip ahead.
But the crowds… WOW… the crowds! And I thought the Zoo’s annual $6 days were bad. With only half the zoo’s space in operation, sidewalks sharing space with some displays, and everyone turning into photographers, all of humanity was further crammed. The wanna-be photog in me still cringed as people stopped in the middle of the crowded sidewalk to take photos of the trees… or worse… using FLASH to photograph themselves in front of light displays. Noooo.
But as the crowds thinned in that final hour I began to fully appreciate the art. My favorite area was the koi pond—built over a real pond—with suspended fish, lily pads, and flowers creating a sea of color and light. Its almost-magical presence became further disjointed from reality by the dinosaur lanterns nearby. Further entertainment included performances at the center stage (we passed two ladies performing Chinese Yo-Yo tricks) and a dancing dragon weaving around the park held aloft by multiple people.
It wasn’t exactly a quiet romantic stroll nor a thought-provoking art exhibit, but Zoominations was still a fun viewing and colorful evening.
Lowry Park Zoo
Date of visit April