Saturday, September 8, 2012
The Sedgwick County Zoo's biggest night is also its biggest fundraiser, and it is a night that become more important every year.
Zoobilee gives the zoo's budget a big boost.
"It's our largest fundraiser of the year," said Melissa Graham, public relations and marketing manager for the zoo. "We raise over $500,000 that we get to take into the zoo and help support animals, feed, all the staff and all that kind of great stuff that just keeps the zoo at its best."
Private fundraising is becoming more important for the zoo, which will lose more than $250,000 in funding from Sedgwick County in 2013.
About 4,000 visitors along with an additional 1,000 volunteers and vendors are part of Zoobilee every year.
"It's great to see so many people out supporting the zoo," said Mitzie Hall. "It's really wonderful."
"It's a great crowd out here tonight, it really is," added her husband, Garth Hall.
Supporters like the Halls say Zoobilee's importance grows each year as Sedgwick County deals with tough budget decisions, like the cuts made to zoo funding in the 2013 budget. More money for operations at the zoo means keeping admission prices affordable for visitors.
"We have a wonderful zoo, so it's a good fundraiser for it," Mitzie Hall said.
Graham said that community pride is what allows the Sedgwick County Zoo to remain a world class zoo.
"We have a community who loves the zoo and they take good care of us," she said. "And, we have a great crowd out here helping us out and helping us raise some funds that will support us through this time."
It is more than just the chance to support the zoo that keeps crowds coming to Zoobilee each year.
Tammy and Nick Dolalr said the atmosphere and seeing old friends is their favorite part of the event.
The Halls agreed.
"We see a lot of people that we don't see except here and it's great to see them and the evening is perfect," Mitzie said.