Many people ask why the Zoo is closed the first Saturday in June every year. Before working here, I would not have been able to answer this question, even as a long-time member. Now I have the answer—ZOOBILATION!
This event is the Zoo’s largest single-day fundraiser and the Zoo is closed all day in preparation for the evening’s big gala. The event includes a live auction, silent auction, wine pull, hors d’oeuvres, dinner, entertainment and so much more! Preparation begins far in advance. Almost as soon as one Zoobilation is complete, planning begins for the next. Our grant writer, Michelle Picardo, is the coordinator of the event and she goes above and beyond to make sure that the event is a success, even before it occurs. Michelle, along with members of the Zoobilation Committee, reach out to hundreds of organizations, individuals and corporations who donate time, resources and products to ensure that fantastic food, auction items and entertainment are available throughout the evening.
Proceeds from auctioning the products and services donated benefit the Zoo, of course! Tickets for this popular gala went on sale in late February and sold out almost immediately. This is a testament to the enjoyment had by attendees over the years, and especially in 2012, the first year the party took place in A Step Into Africa, and the first time Zoobilation sold out. This year, there were many smiles and much laughter throughout the evening despite thunderstorms with torrential rains. The event tents placed throughout the Zoo served their purpose splendidly.
The evening began with beautiful weather and guests began checking in at 5:45 p.m. Some were whisked away by golf carts straight to the event location, while others chose to meander leisurely through the Zoo to join the party. A champagne toast, followed by hors d’oeuvres kicked off the celebration. Guests were entertained throughout the evening with live music, a hilarious live auction and, of course, the Zoo’s animals: Genny C. and Lilac enjoyed the rain! Once the storm passed, lucky guests were able to see Genny C. dig a large hole with her enormous foot and get right in for a mud-bath. The olive baboons were equally active and enjoyed the excitement of the event. It’s not often that they have a serving station located in their viewing area, and they did as much observing as the party-goers.
But the talk of the evening was the African lions. Chester and Zuri put on a spectacular show of playfulness, interaction and activity. Chester carried his favorite bucket around and had fun with it all evening. Zuri was especially mesmerized by all of the guests in the lion viewing area and she spent a good portion of the evening pawing at the glass, as if to join in the celebration.
The evening concluded with handshakes and hugs, and guests were shuttled back to the front of the Zoo. Volunteers and staff began the clean up immediately after the last guest departed so that the area would be ready to receive visitors on Sunday morning. After all, your Zoo is open 361 days a year (362 in a leap year!) and we pride ourselves on it being The Natural Place for Families.
Thank you to all who attended. Thank you to our dedicated volunteers. Thank you to our hardworking staff, and especially to the Zoobilation Committee which worked all year to make this one night a great success!
– Michele Schepisi-Ritchie, Office Assistant