Cover Stories

Go Wild: Saint Louis Zoo

Costumes of every stripe will be on parade at the Saint Louis Zoo’s biennial Zoofari fundraiser, which supports the conservation of endangered animal species around the world. It’s one of the attraction’s most colorful events, and attendees are encouraged to be especially fierce with their attire.

Zoofari will be held the evening of June 21, rain or shine, on the zoo grounds. Guests enjoy dressing up with furry and feathery flair, and many of them go all out, according to event co-chair Matt Geekie. “I’ve seen people who didn’t just put on a costume, they created an entire environment around themselves,” he says. “You’ll see lots of animal patterns, crazy hats and more. The evening is black-tie, but we encourage everyone to be a little wild and have fun. Imagine 3,000 guests dressed up to one degree or another, with animals and music in the background. People-watching at Zoofari is outstanding.”

There also will be delicious food from more than 60 local restaurants and catering companies, and bars will serve up themed drinks. “The restaurants enjoy showcasing their latest offerings at this event,” Geekie says. “You can go from station to station to sample appetizers, main dishes and desserts. The evening flows beautifully, and guests enjoy entertainment, dancing, a silent auction and other activities.”

Co-chair Judy Kouchoukos says Zoofari is an event like no other in St. Louis. “It’s especially fun because you walk around the grounds feeling as if the animals are watching you for a change,” she says. The party’s main stage will be located near the Schnuck Family Plaza at the center of the park. Musical entertainment includes the Lost Wax dance band and Starship with Mickey Thomas.

Zoofari always is themed around a particular animal, and this year is the chimpanzee. “The zoo participates in a species survival program for chimps, which are nearing endangered status,” Kouchoukos says. “There are only about 150,000 left in Africa. We feel that we have a responsibility to help them survive.” There’s also a real commitment to conserving species native to the U.S. and Missouri, she notes.

The zoo recently was voted the country’s top free attraction by USA Today readers, and that makes it a national treasure as well as a local one. “As a native St. Louisan, some of my earliest memories are of going to the zoo with friends and enjoying animals we never would have had a chance to experience otherwise,” Geekie recalls. “Now, I take my family a couple of times a week, and I’ve served on the board of directors for a long time.”

Kouchoukos adds, “Zoofari is not just a party, it’s an important way to raise awareness for an amazing cause. There’s so much to enjoy, and you’ll leave feeling as if the event was designed just for you.”

Zoofari is the Saint Louis Zoo’s largest fundraiser, bringing together more than 3,000 guests for an evening of fun and entertainment June 21. Judy and Jerry Kent are the 2019 honorary chairs, and Wells Fargo Advisors is the presenting sponsor. Pictured on the cover: Event chairs Matt Geekie and Judy Kouchoukos. For more information, call 314.646.4771 or visit

Cover design by Julie Streiler | Cover photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography

Pictured at top: Guests at Zoofari 2017
Photo: S. Carmody Photography