22 Jan ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO THANKS COMMUNITY FOR GENEROUS CONTRIBUTIONS MADE DURING ANNUAL ESSEX COUNTY HOLIDAY LIGHTS SPECTACULAR Over 16.6 Tons of Non-Perishable Food, Toys and Winter Coats Are Collected to Assist the Needy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 22, 2015

ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO THANKS COMMUNITY
FOR GENEROUS CONTRIBUTIONS MADE DURING ANNUAL
ESSEX COUNTY HOLIDAY LIGHTS SPECTACULAR
Over 16.6 Tons of Non-Perishable Food, Toys and Winter Coats
Are Collected to Assist the Needy

West Orange, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that a record number 66,460 people visited and over 16.6 ton tons of non-perishable food, clothing and toys were collected for those in need during the 8th Annual Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular at Turtle Back Zoo. In the six-week period from Thanksgiving to January 4th, visitors to the Holiday Lights Spectacular were given free admission and asked to make a donation that would benefit several organizations dedicated to helping the less fortunate.

The 66,460 visitors at the Holiday Lights Spectacular this winter eclipsed the previous record of 52,878 visitors welcomed in 2011. In addition, there were 33,268 pounds of food – about 16.6 tons – of non-perishable food collected for the Community FoodBank of NJ, 7,780 toys collected for the Jersey Battered Women’s Services, the East Orange YMCA and the pediatric unit at St. Barnabas Medical Center and 3,671 winter coats donated to the Red Cross chapters in Montclair and Fairfield. The collection of winter coats was aided by Boy Scout Sean Quinlan, a member of Handicapped Boys Scout Troop 364 in Belleville, who coordinated a coat drive for his Eagle Scout project and then donated the coats to the collection at the Holiday Lights Spectacular. This was the fifth consecutive year that visitors were asked to make a donation to help the less fortunate, and donations collected over the years has amounted to over 37 tons of non-perishable food, 20,550 toys and 7,088 winter coats.

“It is wonderful to see the large number of items dropped off at the Holiday Lights Spectacular to assist the less fortunate. These donations show the generous spirit and caring that exists in our community and certainly helped make a difference during the holiday season to those who need assistance,” DiVincenzo said. “We offered free admission to the Holiday Lights as a way to give back to our residents and make the event available to everyone, and our visitors responded with extraordinary generosity to help the less fortunate,” he noted.

About 50 animal and holiday-themed figures lit up the winter night in Turtle Back Zoo and the surrounding Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex. Over 100,000 lights illuminated figures of bears, tigers and elephants, along with holiday lights designed to look like wooden soldiers, stars and winter scenes. The Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular was sponsored by Covanta Energy, PSE&G, the Zoological Society of New Jersey and the Essex County Parks Foundation.

Essex County also had another record year at Turtle Back Zoo. In 2014, there were 688,359 visitors – the second consecutive year in zoo history that annual attendance eclipsed the 600,000 mark and the 10th consecutive year that a new annual attendance record was set. In addition, Turtle Back Zoo was named the Best Zoo in New Jersey by NJ Monthly magazine for the fourth time and received a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor.com for the second consecutive year.

Turtle Back Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Regular admission is $7 for children and senior citizens, $9 for adults and free for children under 2 years. For additional information, please call 973-731-5800 or visit www.essexcountynj.org.

Revitalizing Essex County Turtle Back Zoo

Since taking office in 2003, DiVincenzo has spearheaded over $70 million in upgrades to Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, which have included developing the Carousel with 33 figures of endangered animals; building the Sea Lion Sound Exhibit with sea lions, sharks and sting rays; the Big Cat Country Exhibit with Jaguars and Cougars; Tam-ring Gibbons Reserve with Gibbons apes, Reeves muntjac and white naped cranes; Australian Exhibit that features kangaroos, wallabies, emus and over 500 birds in the Aviary; Reptile and Education Center, open air dining pavilion and playground, Penguin Exhibit, Otter Exhibit, Wolf Exhibit, Alligator Exhibit, North American Animal Exhibit, Black Bear Exhibit, Animal Hospital, Essex Farm Petting Zoo and South American Animal Exhibit; renovating the Food Pavilion for year-round use and making upgrades to the entrance as well as fencing and infrastructure to meet AZA requirements. Funding has been provided through Green Acres grants, existing capital improvement bonds, or donations from the Zoological Society, Essex County Parks Foundation, corporations or private foundations. Corporations that have provided support include Investors Bank, Prudential Financial, Inc., Wells Fargo (Wachovia Bank), PNC Bank, PSE&G, Verizon, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Coca Cola, Capital One Bank, TD Bank, Aramark, Covanta Energy and OxyMagic carpet cleaning.

The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system established in the United States. The Park System consists of more than 6,000 acres and has 22 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, Treetop Adventure Course, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, two miniature golf courses, three off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. Turtle Back Zoo is located in Essex County’s South Mountain Reservation and was opened to the public in 1963.

Contact: Anthony Puglisi
973-621-2542
Lauren Shears
973-621-1590