PUEBLO — Santa on a sleigh pulled by dogs, fire breathing dragons, and a whale you can walk through.
These were just some of the displays at the Pueblo Zoo's first ever sensory-friendly event tonight.
The evening made adjustments to the zoo's usual ElectriCritters event that runs through the entire month of December. Visitors are typically greeted by Christmas music pumping through the speakers and large, flashing light displays. Tonight's visitors still got all of that holiday cheer, just on a smaller scale.
The zoo's goal was to host an inclusive night where families who may usually steer clear of ElectriCritters because of sensory disorders could come and experience the event. Heather Dewey, the Pueblo Zoo's Director of Education, knows that 2020 has been a challenging year for most, but felt there was no better time than the present to get the idea off the ground.
"This year, I think, ya know it's just been a lot of change all across the board, so we thought it was a good year to start implementing these ideas and programs that are going to be more inclusive," said Dewey.
The event was hosted in partnership with Shandy Clinic, a therapy clinic that serves children with Autism and other generic development disorders. Through the clinic's monetary support the zoo was able to provide items to families throughout the night that might make the experience more comfortable, like weighted blankets and tinted sunglasses. The families were also given maps of the event, so they could be prepared for any speakers or flashing lights.
According to the zoo, putting the sensory-friendly evening together went so well that they would like to implement the idea into other events they host, like Brew at the Zoo.
"It was fairly easy for us to do and certainly something that we’re working more into our goals to be more inclusive," said Dewey.
Tonight was the only sensory-friendly night scheduled for this winter, but the usual ElectriCritters event will run again on select nights throughout December. Tickets are available for purchase here.