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One of the enduring lessons of 2020 is that almost anything can be turned into a drive-thru.
The latest test case: ZooLights, the annual holiday light display mounted by the Oregon Zoo. On Wednesday, Nov. 18, Gov. Kate Brown gave zoo officials the green light to turn what's typically a winter stroll through illuminated zoo grounds in Portland's West Hills into a nightly car safari, starting Nov. 22.
It's Nikki Simmons' job to figure out the details.
Simmons, the zoo's events coordinator, says the idea for a drive-thru ZooLights came from one of the elephant keepers. She spent months working on a route and other logistics to guide vehicles through the grounds.
So when the governor announced a statewide "freeze" on entertainment venues—including zoo visits—Simmons appealed to Brown's office to let the car caravans continue. Brown said yes, a tremendous relief to zoo officials, which typically see up to 14,000 people a night walking amid the twinkling lights each holiday season.
That's millions of dollars in revenue. To salvage some of that, Simmons faced a barrage of questions: Will cars bother the tigers? How many vehicles can drive through the zoo each night? Which walkways are wide enough for a Subaru? What's the speed limit?
In this interview, she gives the answers.