For the 20th year in a row, the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo will welcome children and parents alike on Oct. 31 for Boo at the Zoo, a Halloween adventure dubbed the “wildest” party in town. The zoo’s 10-acre forest will be transformed into a spooky but safe trick-or-treat event for the whole family.
Visitors to Boo at the Zoo will wind through the zoo’s quarter mile walking trail, which is wheelchair and stroller accessible, past 16 Halloween-themed candy stations. Costumed zookeepers from SF’s Zoo Animal Technology program will operate each candy station and hand out approximately 90,000 pieces (nearly one ton!) of candy in a single evening.
As part of the zoo’s conservation efforts, the zoo staff is careful to choose candy from companies that promote the sustainable use of palm oil, which helps safeguard the future of orangutans in the wild. Palm oil comes from the fruit of the African oil palm tree and is found in many foods we eat, including candy. Supporting companies and products that use sustainable palm oil is a simple way to help conserve wildlife.
Organizers are expecting over 4,500 visitors to Boo at the Zoo this year. If all goes as planned, that will mark at grand total of 100,000 attendees since the event was first held in 1995!
In its 20 year history, there was just one tiny hiccup that required zoo staff to temporarily reconfigure the trick-or-treat adventure. That hiccup is named Rainer, a white-handed gibbon born at the Santa Fe College Zoo on Oct. 23, 2012. Trick-or-treating was moved to the clearing in front of the zoo that year so as not to disturb the newborn gibbon.
Rainer is now almost two years old and is in full swing in his new habitat, and trick-or-treating has been moved back inside the zoo. Rainer will likely be sleeping during Boo at the Zoo, but guests can see him, along with his mom and dad, during normal zoo hours.
Admission to Boo at The Zoo is one canned food item per person. The zoo passes those canned goods along to local food banks just in time to help people feed their families for the holidays. Boo at the Zoo’s charitable message is, “Gainesville CAN make a difference.” And, after 20 years and nearly 80,000 cans of food, that is quite a difference!
Visitors to Boo at the Zoo should come in costume and bring a bag or bucket to hold their candy. For guests attending after 6 p.m., a flashlight is also recommended.
Some things to remember when visiting the zoo:
- Do not feed the animals. Or the people dressed like animals.
- Pets are not allowed, but people dressed like pets are OK.
- Stay on pathways and respect barriers, even if you are a ghost.
- Keep your wigs and tails on at all times.
- Place litter (that means candy wrappers!) in the proper trash receptacles.