The days are shorter and the temperatures are dropping – bundle up, because we’re officially entering prime “holiday lights” season. Don’t settle for any ordinary trail of lights, though – go see the best and brightest of them all. GloWILD is back and “twice as bright” this year at the Little Rock Zoo, and with tens of thousands of LEDs lighting over 40 handcrafted silk lantern displays, it’s the perfect way to kick off a twinkling holiday tour. From zoo animals and larger-than-life flora to a prehistoric trip through the dinosaur age, the only thing you need is a cup of hot cocoa to keep you warm – which you can pick up in Café Africa, of course. 


An event like this does not come together overnight, so this month, AY is catching up with some of the people who make GloWILD (and the Little Rock Zoo) tick. Last week, we stopped to chat with Karyn Langley, LRZ’s Special Events Coordinator, about her journey to the Zoo, the tall task of setting up GloWILD and her favorite lanterns. 


This time around, we’re putting the spotlight on Little Rock Zoo Guest Services Manager – and resident GloWILD hype man – Dustin Bean. 


Little Rock Zoo Dustin Bean GloWILD


Originally recruited by LRZ to help with Boo at the Zoo, it was a classic case of “love at first event setup” for Bean. “I knew that, ultimately, the Zoo was where I wanted to land,” he recalls. Four years ago, Bean came on full-time as the Special Event Coordinator. This past January, he transitioned to the role of Guest Services Manager. “This is my happy place,” he says. 


Guest Services is – like it says on the tin – the guest-facing side of the Zoo, but that means it’s also the revenue-earning side. Front gate admissions, the Safari Trader Gift Shop, Café Africa, the Arkansas Diamond Express train, the historic Over-The-Jumps Carousel – Guest Services wears many hats around the Zoo, and that’s on top of all the special events. 


Bean and his team work to ensure that every Zoo guest has a positive and memorable experience, and just a few weeks into the GloWILD season, he already has plenty of success stories. 




“Seeing guests in front of different displays where we knew they would want to take photos – it’s that magic that you set up, and then when it happens, it’s one of those moments where our team’s hard work has paid off,” he says. 


One couple Bean met had come last year not for the sake of kids or grandkids, but for a date night. They returned this year, and turning GloWILD into a tradition for families, friends and couples alike is exactly what Bean and the Zoo were hoping for. “It really made my heart smile,” he adds.


He also highlights the Zoo’s partnership with Tianyu Arts & Culture, the company that produces the handmade lantern displays. There were challenges and bumps in the road, as with any large-scale rollout – discussing voltage and electrical setup across a language barrier is no mean feat – but Bean points to the patience and collaboration that everyone involved has brought to the table. 



GloWILD, Sponsors, ARORA, Dustin Bean


“Everybody is working with so much heart,” he says. “We work to ensure that guests only see that finished product.” 


As you make your way through GloWILD, you might be inspired to support the Zoo’s mission in other ways as well. To this end, Bean suggests thinking of the Zoo as you look at venues for your next special event – private rentals are a great way to turn your inner “party animal” into animal conservation. From family reunions and wedding receptions to after-hours corporate get-togethers, “the sky’s the limit on what we can do here,” Bean says. 


Even if you just show up, grab a drink and a snack and enjoy the lights, the money the Zoo makes from GloWILD goes right back into education and conservation, so the event is not only a great excuse for a night out, but a contribution to the future of the Little Rock Zoo and the planet’s wildlife. 


GloWILD will be at the Little Rock Zoo nightly from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. until Jan. 7, 2023. Also, be sure to enter AY’s giveaway for a chance to win GloWILD tickets. 



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Heather Baker (@heatherbaker_ar)


For more information about GloWILD, visit the Little Rock Zoo online or call 501-661-7200. 


READ ALSO: Little Rock Zoo Employee Spotlight: Karyn Langley