A twinkling hippopotamus, made by TEP welders, sparkles during the holiday season at the Reid Park Zoo’s annual Zoo Lights celebration.

The nighttime event runs through Dec. 23 with encore nights on Dec. 26-30.

TEP’s Fabrication Weld Shop got into the holiday spirit over the summer by completing a hippo sculpture made of steel. In July, shop Supervisor Arron Porter delivered the hippo to the zoo.

For the holiday season, the hippo is adorned with red, yellow and white lights for the walk-throughs with social-distancing guidelines. The hippo made its debut during nighttime Halloween events.

There isn’t a standard template for a hippo made of quarter inch round bar. So it was a chance for the team to get creative in a different way than building structures and making truck modifications.

“It was a fun project,” Porter said, noting the team worked off and on over the course of a few months earlier this year. “With everything going on in the world, it just seems we have been bombarded all year with bad news. It was a nice distraction and something positive to look forward to. It was a group effort and we hope it brings a few smiles to our community.”

This year’s Zoo Lights will feature nearly 1 million lights throughout the zoo, including snow, cocoa, festive foods and displays. Limited-capacity tickets are available for timed entries each night.

Last year, the team made an alligator for the Zoocson and Zoo Lights event to contribute to the nonprofit.

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