Leisure Features

Dorothy About Town: 7.10.19

Planning an outdoor party for 3,100 is tricky enough without torrential rainfall getting in the way. I’m not sure how they did it, but the Zoofari committee created a seamlessly fun event despite afternoon downpours that must have given the food and beverage vendors apoplexy. For those not familiar with this biennial event (a major fundraiser for our amazing zoo), it’s basically a food lover’s dream. Guests stroll the zoo grounds at dusk (and beyond), stopping at the various food stalls erected especially for the event. Fifty-four generous local eateries dish out samples of their signature creations, so that at any given time, attendees might be juggling a plate of sushi rolls from Baiku, sticky ribs from Bogart’s and a salted caramel sundae from Ted Drewes. As you can imagine, no one is particularly bothered by mixing savories with sweets—and doing it all over again— depending on the tempting goodie offered at the next booth.

In an admirable show of civic pride, many of our corporate neighbors purchase tables (at $3,500 apiece) and fill them with staffers only too pleased to participate. Besides the obvious allure of food, drink and live music, there’s the attire, which is anything but stuffy. Guests are encouraged to get creative, and they do. I saw plenty of guys in jungle-print sport coats (some with matching slacks!). Safari vests, boots, hats and shorts also were omnipresent, frequently paired, oddly, with mid-calf black socks. Womenswear was all over the map, mostly floral and animal prints, with one particular standout: a flamingoprint dress.

Speaking of flamingos, they were out in force in the pond. And the Zooline Railroad chugged merrily away, treating folks to a spin around the grounds as they got to be ‘the kids’ for a change, waving giddily to onlookers while they sipped cocktails. Ditto for the carousel. Guests also could play with the stingrays and sharks at Caribbean Cove or watch the sea lions getting fed at Sea Lion Sound.

Besides being ‘the party of the year,’ Zoofari is all about supporting the zoo we know and love, and having a hand in continuing its conservation efforts here and around the world. Even though limitless food and cocktails are a hard act to follow, there were as many people spending time observing the animals as making their way to the tasting booths. I think they wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the zoo in relative privacy. After all, it’s not every day you can get up close and personal with the chimps and bears and not have to share them with dozens of youngsters vying for the prime spots. I’d say that, as much as anything, is the enduring allure of Zoofari.