Animal attraction

Children meet Cletis the camel during a recent summer camp at Frank Buck Zoo, 1000 W. California St. Camps are underway at the zoo this week and next.

Love animals and music? Then come on out to the Gainesville Farmers Market on Saturday night.

Starting at 7 p.m., the Frank Buck Zoological Society will host a free zoo benefit concert at 215 W. Elm St. on Saturday, July 17.

Jerry Hart & Flatland and Thomas Michael Riley, with special guest Joe Forlini, will be the evening’s musical entertainment, according to a news release.

“It’s a good cause, and it sounds like it’s going to be fun,” said Forlini, who is looking forward to playing the guitar with Riley.

While he’s played the guitar for Jerry Jeff Walker, Rusty Weir, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Augie Myers, Forlini is now the lead guitarist for Larry Joe Taylor, concert organizers said.

“It’s going to be a big weekend,” Forlini added. “Good music, good food. What’s not to like?”

Attendees will also get to hear Jerry Hart & Flatland debut three songs. “It’s going to be fun,” said Hart, who encourages people to come to the concert. “It’s for a good cause.”

Hart has opened shows for Tracy Byrd, Mark Chestnut and Clay Walker, according to the release.

“The Frank Buck Zoological Society is excited to partner with our event sponsors, the Powers family and KJC Ranch, to raise funds and awareness for the Frank Buck Zoo,” Zoo Director Susan Kleven was quoted as saying in the release. “We could not offer this free concert to the community without the Powers’ support.”

Alan Powers and his family grew up in the area, and the zoo and farmers market are near and dear to their hearts. While Powers now lives in Valley Spring, he can remember going to the farmers market with his grandparents.

“No matter where I live, this area – Gainesville, Valley View and Sanger – will always be home,” he said.

Powers and his sisters Ranae Powers Wyatt and Carmen Powers Lee grew up in Sanger with their parents Boyd and Dosia Powers. Their grandparents Billie and Georgia Mask lived in Valley View and Goley and Edna Powers lived in Sanger. They still have cousins with the last names Hawkins and Cox in the area, organizers said.

“We grew up here,” Powers added. “It’s special.”

Powers owns KJC Ranch, a wildlife sanctuary for exotic animals, along with his wife, Cindy, and their sons, Kasee and Jake.

The Powers family breeds rare and endangered exotic species, including hoof stock, Arabian Oryx, sable, kudu, impala, addax and dama gazelles. Alan Powers is a past board member for the Exotic Wildlife Association and a past trustee of the charitable arm of the Exotic Wildlife Association, which is the Second Ark Foundation.

“We’re really looking forward to this concert,” said Powers, who as a business entrepreneur spent 30 years in the oil and gas field with operations in real estate and ranching. “We hope you can make it.”

In addition to music, a few of the Frank Buck Zoo’s animal ambassadors will make an appearance at the start of the event. As of press time Thursday, July 15, Kleven told the Register she wasn’t sure which animals would be at the event because it depends on factors such as crowds and weather.

There will also be a bounce house for kids, said Kleven.

While the concert is free, attendees may support the zoo by purchasing a concert T-shirt, band merchandise, wrist band for the bounce house, beverages or by sponsoring a species or individual animal.

Donations to the Frank Buck Zoological Society of any size are greatly appreciated, Kleven said in the release. Donations go directly to support habitat updates, animal acquisitions and zoo programs.

If Riley wasn’t singing at the fundraiser, he said he would want to support the Frank Buck Zoo.

“It’s a great cause,” said Riley, who has won Texas Music Album of the year and nominated for Entertainer of the Year and Song of the Year. “I would come out and want to make the world a better place.”

The Frank Buck Zoo has served children, schools and citizens of North Texas, Texoma and Southern Oklahoma for 59 years. Its roots date back to the Gainesville Community Circus. In 1954, a fire destroyed most of the circus’s equipment. The animal performers were housed at the County Fairgrounds, where the Civic Center is located, officials said.

In 1962, the animals were moved to their location in Leonard Park, which became the Gainesville Zoo. In 1970, the Frank Buck Zoological Society voted to rename the zoo after Gainesville’s Frank Buck, who was born in 1884. He became a world-famous animal collector and celebrity, who hosted his own radio show and had several book and film appearance credits to his name.

“We would like to invite everyone to come and enjoy a great event and make some memories,” said Powers. “Come for the evening regardless of if you can donate or not.”

No outside food or drinks are allowed, so no coolers, Kleven added. This is a stipulation of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission permit.

“Our generous sponsor has provided an amazing opportunity for us to thank the community for their ongoing support of the zoo,” Kleven told the Register on Thursday. “We have been pleased to provide families with a safe place to spend time with nature during the pandemic.”

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