It turns out squirrels aren't fans of the PNC Festival of Lights.

The furry critters like to munch on the electric cords that connect the two million or so Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs in the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens annual holiday extravaganza.

Before the zoo went to the energy-saving bulbs a few years ago, the squirrels would actually unscrew the old-style incandescent bulbs and leave them in piles.

"Apparently, they thought they were acorns," says Susan Ludwig, the Zo'™s special events manager.

"We've tried a lot of different things (to discourage the squirrels), but nothing seems to work," squirrels) but nothing seems to work," says Ludwig, who has managed the festival display as part of her job for 12 years.

Luckily, she says, it's only a problem in certain areas of the festival, which switches on for its 30th season on Nov. 23 after a member preview on Nov. 21.

200,000 Visitors In 37 Days

The 37-day event, that drew about 200,000 visitors last year, is pretty much a year-round preoccupation for Ludwig and co-worker Amy LaBarbara, the zo'™s events coordinator.

A zoo crew of about two dozen people begin putting up the light displays starting about Aug. 1 and they work right up until the festival begins.

Ludwig and LaBarbara have compiled a thick binder for the crews installing the lights with pictures and details on what color lights to use when they're building the displays.

The crew starts taking the lights down after the festival ends on Jan. 1.

It takes until about March 1 to get all the lights down and stored in one of 400 specially marked plastic tubs.


The rest of the year Ludwig and LaBarbara spend time ordering new lights and planning new displays and features.

"We'll have to order lights for the 2013 Festival in March," Ludwig says.

This year, for example, they will be adding new twinkling colored lights. There's also a new Wild Lights Show on Swan Lake and a new food item, build-your own S'mores.

"Every year we try to do a few things differently or add new elements," Ludwig says.

It doesn't always come off as planned.

When the Zoo adopted LED lights, cutting its electric cost by more than two-thirds, it purchased a lot of bright white lights for the displays.

The zoo got a lot of letters from patrons.

"They felt the white lights weren't colorful enough," Ludwig says.

"The next year we started doing a lot more areas in colored lights."