Welcome to the Zoo
The Santa Ana Zoo means different things to different people. For some, it instantly brings back memories of childhood. For others it is a symbol of volunteerism and conservation. For me, it is a place of peace in this midst of an urban jungle. That is why I jumped at the opportunity to attend the thirteenth annual Zoofari, themed, 'Jammin' in the Jungle.'
Docent Educates Zoo Board Members
Zoofari is a dinner dance held at the Santa Ana Zoo. The number of attendees grows every year, with over 400 attending this year's festivities on August 27, 2005. Partygoers had the option to dress in style (black tie) or in comfort (safari attire). Some choose to combine a little of both, adding pith hats to their tuxedo accessories.
Sazoo Says Hello
Guests were greeted by the Santa Ana Zoos' mascot, Sazoo. Sazoo was clad in a full body enclosed costume, reminiscent of Disney characters and was a charming greeter despite initial temperatures in excess of ninety degrees. Guests mingled with some of Orange County's most prominent citizens and philanthropist, while being entertained by fire jugglers, mystic seers, and a unique tattoo artist. The child in many guests came out to play and was most evident if you witness guests in black tie whizzing by on the zoo's mini-train, the Zoofari Express, with their champagne or Vox vodka in hand.
Ty, an absolutely adorable and well mannered elephant, was also available to pose with guests. Her ever wandering trunk made for some wonderful candid shots, despite people's attempts to take a posed photograph.
Ty with a Surprise in Her Trunk
What a Cute Face
Guests were able to assist in upgrading and expanding the Santa Ana Zoo by not only paying the ticket price, but also by bidding on silent and live auction items. The auction items included such amazing opportunities as Tanzania Safari for two guided by the zoo director Ron Glazier (that went for $10,000) to baskets of fun salon items or tickets to local events, like the Ducks or community theater.
Lucas and Beth Saxe Show Zoofari Spirit
Adding to the merriment was an open bar compliments of 'Vox Vodka', distillers of smooth wheat vodka for the last 400 years. As Vox is distilled five times, true vodka martini aficionados needed nothing more to enhance this liquid paradise, save maybe two olives or a twist. Many enjoyed the signature drink of the night, the Vodka Zootini.
Delicious Eats Under the Stars
Dinner served by 'Parties by Panache,' included the best roast salmon I have ever tasted, as well as teriyaki tri-tip, salad accompanied with some more exotic toppings like papaya and hearts of palms, rice pilaf, vegetable napoleon, and creme Brule with flowerless chocolate cake for dessert. Many suffered from poor pacing and had a difficult time eating all of their dinner after gorging themselves on the amazing appetizers served earlier in the night. Servers dished out enormous coconut shrimp, vegetarian sushi rolls, multiple forms of unique quesadillas, as well as some healthier fruits and vegetables.
Docent with African Millipede
Attendees were also able to take leisurely strolls through the zoo. Most made the trip during daylight. However, for the brave few, the animals could be enjoyed in near darkness and total peace. It was an amazing experience. For the first time, you could truly hear the chirps of the spider monkey and did not have to strain to listen over the cries of small children of the noises of vehicles on nearby streets. The animals seemed to be at peace and were happy to come and greet us, making me realize for the first time that we were on display too. We could talk to the animals without other people thinking that we were crazy. We were free to make monkey calls in the dark. If you were able to ignore the enclosures for a moment, it was easy to imagine that you were wandering through a South American jungle by yourself, and without fear.
Tippi & Chuck Pick a Winner
The Master of Ceremonies was Chuck Dreyer, a professional fund-raising auctioneer. For most of the formal presentation he shared the microphone with actress Tippi Hendren, star of The Birds and avid supporter of humanitarian and environmental caused.
Honoree Souri Amirani with Ross Hering
They presented the evening's honorees: Cathy and Curtis Farrell (President of Friends of the Santa Ana Zoo) and Souri Amirani (Deputy City Engineer) and were able to talk the generous guests into bidding on items or donating enough money to fully meet all of the zoo's goals and allow plans for expansion and betterment of medical treatment to proceed.
Nuts are for the Birds
By the end of the evening, wallets were getting light for this very worthy cause. It was hard to tally the donations as they reached well into the 6 figure neighborhood. Villa Ford, a ten thousand dollar sponsor for the event threw in another $9000 for mere signage rights. The generosity was a magical thing to witness. As the festivities rolled on hundreds of people danced the evening away with Tom Thumb and the Hitchhikers, a country rock band. Zoofari Chairwoman, Roseanne Bye, must have been proud.
Ty Makes a Friend
The Santa Ana Zoo was made possible as a result of a dedication of 12 acres of citrus groves to the City of Santa Ana in 1949. The donor, J.E. Prentice, had a fascination with monkeys and kept several as pets. As a condition of his donation of the land he required that the citrus groves be converted to a park and that at least fifty monkeys must be housed in the park at all times. That is why monkey lovers, more than anyone else, can appreciate the charm of this little zoo in the middle of an 'urban jungle.' The zoo now receives over 270,000 visitors annually and housings over 250 rare and exotic animals, as well as a 20 acre zoological garden.
The addition of the Crean Family Farm last year increased the site by over two acres and allows people to visit with 50 rare breeds of farm animals in an interactive learning environment.
Not Playing Possum
The zoo also offers something hard to find in Southern California a real bargain. Zoo admission ranges from nothing to a mere six dollars. Discounts are available for Automobile Club of Southern California. Train and elephant rides are available November through May for $3-$5. There is also a petting barn for small children to interact and feed some very greedy animals. A special thanks to Debbie Newmeyer for making the evening unforgettable time!!!