The holiday season has returned. Athens is aglow with many activities to distract from finals or find some holiday cheer in the last weeks until the University of Georgia’s instructional break.
One holiday event can be found at Bear Hollow Zoo –– the 11th annual Deck the Hollow event opened Dec. 3, and will be held for the last time this season on Dec. 12.
The Bear Hollow Zoo has been decorated with streams of lights and festive inflatable decorations. Ella Terrell, a sophomore environmental engineering student at UGA, visited the zoo for its festive atmosphere.
“They definitely put on a show at the Bear Hollow Zoo. There were inflatables on every corner of the park,” Terrell said. “I think seeing Santa was my favorite part. I would go again for the Christmas vibe there.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event had to be altered in some ways. Program specialist Megan Hong and her team have taken precautions in order to keep their holiday tradition alive and safe for attendees. Excluding live music and concessions, which have been present at the event in the past,.
“This year, and last year, we had to do a COVID edited version [of Deck the Hollow],” Hong said. By limiting the number of attendees to 50 per half-hour time slot, the zoo has been able to encourage social distancing.
Bear Hollow Zoo operates normally during the Deck the Hollow event and many of its unique animal residents are on full display. The zoo is home to over 50 different kinds of local animal species, including various species of bears, owls, reptiles and otters, who have been deemed non-releasable.
“These are animals that can’t live out in the wild on their own due to injury or imprinting [on humans],” Hong said. “They are deemed non-releasable by the Department of Natural Resources or a veterinarian because they couldn’t find food, water, shelter, or avoid danger on their own.”
Bear Hollow Zoo was founded not only to provide a home for these animals unfit for natural survival, but to also educate the public on the nature that surrounds the area. Terrell found the park to be an educational experience and a fun way to spend an evening.
“I had a lot of fun at the zoo today. I thought it was super informational,” Terrell said. “All the employees there were so nice and [were] giving out information about all of the animals while we toured the park.”
While the nighttime event ends Dec. 12, visitors can still see the zoo decorated for the holidays while touring the park during its daytime hours. The zoo will keep all of its holiday decorations up through Christmas.