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Winter Wonderland at the zoo brings together wild animals and Christmas characters

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Turtledoves, French hens and calling birds kept company with wolves and bald eagles at the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park on Sunday night.

The zoo’s Winter Wonderland weekends, running now through the end of December, give families a chance to visit with some of the park’s year-round residents and some seasonal interlopers.

“It lets people see the zoo in a different light,” Executive Director John T. Wright said. “We were looking to give families something affordable to do during the holidays to create those family traditions and memories.”

Just past the mountain lion’s habitat, a Christmas creature equally ferocious kept his lair.

The Grinch was nestled among bright lights reflecting on the snow, lighting up the night as Christmas carols rang out over the front portion of the zoo’s 32 acres.

On the other side of the path, a gray wolf stalked little Cindy Lou Who from behind a fence.

Painted representations of animals from the 12 days of Christmas also were featured prominently.

There are 15 light displays throughout the zoo.

“We keep adding more and more every year,” Mr. Wright said.

The displays earned favorable reviews from Kevin G. and Susan K. Boswell, who visited the zoo with their family. Originally from South Carolina, the Boswells came to the north country when Mr. Boswell was stationed at Fort Drum.

“I loved it. I thought it was very nice,” Mr. Boswell said.

“It was cute,” Mrs. Boswell said.

It took the group about 45 minutes to traverse the wonderland with five children of all ages in tow.

“We had a hot chocolate break in the middle,” said family friend Alexis E. Schonfield.

“And a snowball fight,” Mrs. Boswell added.

The Winter Wonderland is in its third year this December, and Mr. Wright said the event is close to establishing itself as a holiday tradition, though it still has some ground to cover.

“In this town, it doesn’t become a tradition until year five,” he said.

The event runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 5:30 to 8 p.m. until Dec. 19. Admission is free for zoo members and children under 3. Children 3 to 12 are admitted for $2, and adults are admitted for $3.

Free admission is provided by F.X. Caprara with a donation of a nonperishable food item, coat or unwrapped toy. Hot chocolate, coffee and refreshments are available for purchase at the Wildside Cafe.

The zoo also is holding a raffle for a 6-foot-tall stocking filled with more than $3,000 worth of prizes, including an Xbox, a plasma TV and an extreme sports helmet camcorder. Raffle tickets are $5. The drawing will be Dec. 23 at the Salmon Run Mall.

Musical groups and Christmas-themed acts interested in performing during Winter Wonderland are encouraged to call the zoo at 782-6180, Mr. Wright said.

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