Sarasota holiday tradition cancelled because of Hurricane Irma

(Source: Sarasota Jungle Gardens)

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – A longtime Sarasota tradition meant to brighten the Christmas season will be turned off this year.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens has cancelled its holiday light show because of damage from Hurricane Irma.

(Source: Sarasota Jungle Gardens)

This small, family owned zoo offers guests an up-close experience not found at other zoos.

“Most of the time, these animals are just on exhibit and you have to look at them from afar,” said Assistant Manager Liz Howell.

For years, a big draw was the Holiday Lights Spectacular. The park was decorated with millions of lights and featured live entertainment and s’mores.

But that’s not happening this year, because of Hurricane Irma. The storm left behind a massive mess that they’re still cleaning up.

“The trees that came down, it took down a lot of other trees on their way down. Ripped up a lot of pavers, a lot of electrical work and plumbing,” said Howell.

The park was closed for five weeks. Crews did not have enough time to put up decorations and many pathways are still inaccessible.

“We wouldn’t be able to offer the same thing to our customers and guests just like we have in the past,” explained Howell.

Many guests have been coming here for years.

“That is sad, yeah it is, because that’s a lot of fun here in Florida,” said one woman.

“You can’t do anything about…a hurricane. It’s gonna have its way,” said visitor Sandy Duncan.

But the park is still open for visitors and some say the park is still worth a visit this holiday season.

“The weather is nice now, even if they don’t have the lights going. The kids can still do stuff here that they can’t do other places,” said a visitor.

“Everybody should come out and take it in and forget about some of these big theme parks, come see what Florida’s about,” said Duncan.

The park is open seven days a week. Officials hope to have all the Irma debris cleaned up within a month. They’re already planning to have the holiday lights show next year.

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