By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
Gainesville Daily Register
Despite a late-day chill, Saturday’s 2012 installment of “Zoo Boo” packed Frank Buck Zoo with close to 900 patrons.
The Halloween-themed family festival was heavier on treats and costumes than animal interaction, since many of the facility’s creatures sleep at night. But active exhibits included tarantulas and bats — appropriate to the occasion — and the bustlings of kangaroos and giraffes.
“We had a great night,” said Zoo Director Susan Kleven, who added that the reward of Zoo Boo is that it joins families in a safe setting of wildlife. “We do a fabulous job, if I may say so.”
Kleven credited the efforts of sponsors D&L Farm and Home, Ewing Heating and Air, Nascoga Credit Union, Gainesville Fire Department and Refinery Road Veterinary Clinic, plus volunteers from Cooke County 4-H, North Central Texas College and the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Boyd.
The evening offered games, music, food vendors, candy giveaways and Zoo Boo hosts dressed as fantasy characters such as Shrek and Scooby-Doo. Kleven said one notable addition was a pirate ship exhibit, made possible by the design work of volunteers.
“We had a lot of great volunteers,” she said. “They really took that to the next level, and they all worked on it.”
Kleven said one objective among Zoo Boo organizers for 2013 is to make event admission easier for visitors who want to get it in advance.
“We’re looking forward to hopefully being able to sell tickets online next year from the city website,” she said. “I think a lot of people like the convenience of being able to purchase something ahead of time.”
Karen Cook of the Frank Buck Zoological Society hosted a cake walk that played like a game of musical chairs and offered baked goods and candy to winners.
“We were busy from 15 minutes after it started to when it was over,” Cook said. “We did well.”
Cook added that the turnout was ample, but participants discovered that the game offered enough prizes to reward everyone.
“We had such a great turnout of kids,” she said. “Some of the kids were coming back and back, and some the parents were coming back. We had such a great response from our board bringing things to give away that we sometimes had two or three prizes for the same winners. At the end, we had free cake walks where everyone was a winner and they won without having to buy tickets.”
Cook, who has conducted the cake walk for several years, said it’s only one of several Zoo Boo highlights that bring families back year after year.
“The door-to-door stuff isn’t as safe as it used to be, so families feel safe bringing their kids,” she said. “The zoo gets such a great response from the fire department and from other businesses, and so it’s cool to see them there, and the kids get such a great kick out of that.”