Q&A: Meet the man behind Wildlights

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Mark Patzerbreaks down the Columbus Zoo's holiday lights tradition.

What are your responsibilities with Wildlights?I am a large part of the planning process: deciding the music that will be played, expanding the light show in new locations and different presentations, purchasing new lights. I also oversee the timing of the hanging of the lights as far as when we start hanging them, number of people involved, equipment rental needed tohang the lights.

How has Wildlights grown since you started?Now it's zoowide. Originally, it was probably mostly around the lake. And then we continued to just move into each region as the years progressed, and people wanted more and more.

What is the power situation?Since we changed from incandescent lamps to LED, it has been a big benefit to us. Finding power used to be a challenge. But we probably cut that down by two-thirds in going to LED. So that's a huge savings.

What major problems do you usually run into?Probably the major problem throughout the year is rain or wetness. When it rains, we get a lot of trips, and that's what causes most of our headaches-the lights will go out. So the weather is probably the worst offender.

Do the lights affect the animals?For the most part, no, because they're in their own buildings. That's basically what we work around, is the animals. They're the most important thing, as far as making sure they're safe and healthy.

Any inside scoop about this year's displays?We're going to have a new display over in the Shores [& Aquarium] Park area that everybody is excited about. It's going to entail even more movement and some more music. I think it's going to be a big hit.

Mark Patzer

Director of facilities, Columbus Zooand Aquarium

Bonus facts:

Patzer started working at the zooin 1990 as an electrician.

He also works with animal shipments, such as moving manatees and gorillas.