Cincinnati Zoo honors Fiona the hippo with nutcracker statue

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is getting into the Christmas spirit, revealing a nutcracker statue of a hippo to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its PNC Festival of Lights celebration.

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Not just any hippo -- the subject is the zoo’s most famous resident, Fiona, WHIO-TV reported.

The 40th annual Festival of Lights begins Nov. 18 and runs through Jan. 8, 2023, the zoo announced on its website.

“This nutcracker is truly unique,” Chad Yelton, the zoo’s vice president of marketing and visitor experience, said in a statement.

Zoo officials said it took 12 people about 1,650 hours to create the statue of Fiona, a 5-year-old Nile hippopotamus, WHIO reported. The statue is 24 feet tall and 8 feet wide, WXIX-TV reported.

The nutcracker also has 29 buttons on her coat for her birth weight of 29 pounds. Fritz, Fiona’s brother who was born in August, is painted on her toenail.

“There are other items of significance on the structure, which is made of steel and fiberglass, but we’ll let people have fun finding those on their own,” Yelton said.

According to WLWT-TV, those include six slices of watermelon on her belt, since Fiona was born six weeks early and loves watermelon; a camera on her belt buckle, since she has grown up in front of cameras; an Aquarius symbol on her buttons, representing her birth month; and garnet, her birthstone, featured on her crown.

The nutcracker, which graces the entrance to the zoo, has featured a rhinoceros and a lion over the past two years, according to WXIX.