The splendor and magic of over 100,000 twinkling lights decorating trees and buildings happened again this weekend. Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo opened Friday night.
This annual event creates a winter wonderland for visitors. The zoo keeps animal buildings open until 8 p.m. and Docents are on hand to answer questions and help children with crafts and puppet plays.
The Holly Jolly Theatre provides entertainment from magicians to dance troupes to those Funny Little People. High school choirs and girl scout troops carol at different buildings.
Guest Guides lead visitors in singing to the animals at Bears Grotto, Dolphin Underwater Viewing and Big Cats. The park is awash with lights and color; it reverberates with laughter and song.
As in most years, I volunteer to be a town crier. I get to wear a festive cape and Santa hat and carry bells to ring and welcome guests as they enter the park. Town criers answer logistics questions—where’s the bathroom, where’s the Elf Train, what time is the laser show, where’s the laser show, is the tram running, et al.
I used the zoo as a setting for my second book, The Lion Tamer: A Caged Death. The mystery was set in the spring at another well known event, The Whirl. Every year when I sign up to work Holiday Magic I consider setting another mystery at the zoo during this event. The open parts of the park are brimming with light but the off limit paths are dark and uninviting. My imagination could conceive of evil lurking on the edge of joy.
Then I work the event and meet the groups of people who plan their holiday season around visiting the zoo and singing to their favorite animal. I watch as a group of girls comes upon the costume character Frosty and burst into an unexpectedly good rendition of Frosty the Snowman. I marvel at the grins on their teen age faces as I offer to take a picture of them with Frosty.
After an evening in the park greeting families and directing them to events then later thanking people for attending and wishing them Happy Christmas I remember why I’ve never set a murder mystery during Holiday Magic. People are smiling, singing, thanking me for thanking them as they leave. Children are stopping to wish me a Merry Christmas; they’re telling me about all the things they did, showing me their crafts, relating how they sang to the Polar Bear cub, Hudson. How could I possibly mar the magic with murder?
Does anyone have ‘off limits’ topics? Anything you’re too close to or involved with to be able to turn it bleak or dark?
Once again, I glanced at the dark areas of the zoo and decided to leave them off the page of the magical season at Brookfield Zoo.
Sources of the Mystery Short Story
17 hours ago