Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium lights Ghouls & Glow with help from FadeUp

Creating a One-of-a-Kind Experience

If you’ve lived in Omaha for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with — and proud of — our very own Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. TripAdvisor named it “the world’s best zoo” in 2014, beating out familiar favorites like the San Diego Zoo and Loro Parque in Puerto de la Cruz, Spain.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium features the largest:

  • Indoor swamp in the world
  • Indoor rain forest in North America
  • Indoor desert in the world
  • Glazed geodesic dome in the world

The zoo’s staff continually strives to provide its visitors with an unmatched experience as an educational institution, environmental advocate, and world-class destination. And they’re always advancing.

For example, its yearly Halloween event has continually evolved into something bigger and better. Under the name Spooktacular, their event planning team was able to take a simple night of trick-or-treating and turn it into a popular multi-night event.

But in 2019, the zoo decided the event needed a complete rebranding effort. The project, led by Marketing and Event Manager Angela Bobbett, attempted to create a nighttime zoo attraction unlike anything guests had seen before.

Calling the new event Ghouls & Glow, Bobbett and her team used every tool at their disposal to set the event apart.

One of the main tools she chose to use was dramatic and artistic lighting.

Using event lighting to transform Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium

First, Bobbett and her staff decided to feature a distinctive Chinese Lantern show from Tennessee-based company ID8 Productions in a space not typically open to the public. She also tapped holiday lighting partners Holidynamics, who brought in the long strands of lights for trees and other features.

Bobbett also partnered with popular local entertainers who added light to their acts. Omaha Circus Arts contributed light through fire dancing, glow-in-the-dark juggling, and an aerial showcase. Additionally, Omaha Street Percussion used unique instruments made out of recycled materials that lit up with each strike.

But when creating a spooky nighttime event, there are three main lighting problems Bobbett needed to address.

First, the zoo had to be adequately lit for safety and security reasons. Additionally, guests would need to understand instinctively to stay inside areas bounded by intentional lighting.

Second, whatever lighting they brought in had to enhance the featured lighted attractions without washing them out. Bringing in white floodlights would defeat the purpose altogether. They needed someone with an artist’s eye who could make attendees feel safe without “killing the vibe.”

Finally, the features taken by themselves didn’t make the zoo feel like Halloween. Bobbett needed someone to transform the Zoo into a spooky and fun outdoor space through light.

To achieve all of these effects simultaneously, she called on long-time Zoo partner Heath Marrinan of FadeUp Design Group.

FadeUp Design Group Goes to Work

Bobbett told Heath what the parameters of the event were, then asked him to lend his creativity to turn this familiar outdoor space into a whole new world. She also asked for any ideas he had to set Ghouls & Glow apart from Spooktacular, which FadeUp also helped to design.

First, Heath brought in supplemental LED lighting fixtures to highlight the character of the Zoo’s foliage and trees. Up-lighting them with dark purple, orange, and green, made the whole zoo feel like Halloween.

He continued to define the buildings and path with artistic, focused lighting. FadeUp filled in the gaps between various features, created a continuous flow to the event, and focused the attention wherever Bobbett and her team wanted it.

Heath also brought in a brand-new element to reinforce the new rebranding of the event: A laser show.

Rebranding an Event with a Laser Show

One of the zoo’s largest buildings, the Lozier Giant Screen Theater®, has a large wall that serves wonderfully as a canvas for creative lighting. In previous years, FadeUp projected the event’s logo using a custom-created gobo.

But this year, Heath projected a giant two-minute laser show on the theater’s exterior wall. The show clearly branded the event as Ghouls & Glow, acknowledged event sponsor Veridian Credit Union, then continued with a laser-light movie featuring witches, bats, spiders, and other creepy Halloween images.

Every attendee saw the show at some point in the evening. It was the icing on the cake — a final element to make sure everyone knew the Zoo was doing something new and different.

From Spooktacular to Ghouls & Glow — Doubling Attendance

For Bobbett, all the work her team put into the event made a huge difference. Ghouls & Glow looked and felt like a new event. Guests reported how much they enjoyed the change.

When asked about FadeUp’s contribution, Bobbett said, “Heath is awesome — incredibly knowledgeable and always willing to help. He’s super attentive and ready to lend a hand at any moment. FadeUp has been a great partner.”

There was one instance, unrelated to FadeUp’s area of responsibility, that she was especially grateful for. She said, “I remember needing help with something that wasn’t even related to what we had hired FadeUp to do. Heath heard about it and was there at the drop of a hat. Then he was able to fix the problem.”

What’s more, through the efforts of Bobbett and her team, the Zoo was able to double their attendance from previous years. It was a true success.

Do you need someone to set your next event apart?

Successful event planners build exciting new worlds inside generic or familiar spaces. To accomplish their vision, they partner with experts in a variety of fields who know how to bring their creative dreams to pass.

They know carefully chosen team members will make the difference between “okay” and “amazing.”

That’s why event planners in Omaha (and beyond) call FadeUp Design Group. Heath and his team can transform virtually any space with light, setting the mood and tone through color and creativity.

Corporate event, private party, wedding, or whatever, call FadeUp to transform your next event with light. Get the conversation started today.