Young and old enjoy Boo! at the Zoo

10/21/2013

By BECKY MALEWITZ

By BECKY MALEWITZ

bmalewitz@gctelegram.com

Lee Richardson Zoo opened its gates on Saturday night to superheroes, princesses, fairies, cartoon characters and hundreds of other creatively costumed adults and children during its annual Boo! at the Zoo Halloween celebration.

More than 5,200 people made their way through the decorated candy stations lining the zoo.

"It was great. Lot of people, but it's really nice they put this on for people," Sarah Stockhaus of Satanta said after exiting the Boo at the Zoo's newest attraction, a Harry Potter-themed train ride where kids were given a wand to ward off dementors — a dark, cloaked creature from the Harry Potter stories. "This is the first time we came up here, and it was very much worth it."

Stockhaus made the visit with her husband, Craig, and son, Nathanial, 4, who was dressed up as Iron Man for the occasion.

"He shoots the bad ones," Nathanial said when asked why he liked Iron Man.

Nathaniel's favorite part of the night was zapping away evil dementors from the zoo's train.

Jasper Partin, 14, a Junior Leadership Corps member from Horace Good Middle School, was one of the dementors chasing after each train and falling to the ground as its occupants pointed their plastic wands at them. He remembers coming to Boo! at the Zoo when he was younger.

"I feel like it's kind of cool to be a dementor and scare the kids, when I was scared when I was little and I used to come," Parton said while waiting for the next train of witches and wizards to drive by. "Some kids are laughing, but some of the little kids, they really think it's real. It's pretty cool. It makes it kind of fun for us, too."

Kathy Sexson, executive director of Lee Richardson Zoo, sat at the zoo's Fifth Street exit as families made their way out of the zoo carrying bags full of treats.

"Turnout seems great, weather is fabulous, nice day. It's just going really great," she said. "Dressing up and seeing all the kids is really fun for me. There's a lot of adorable costumes, and everybody is just having a great time. Our goal is to just make a fun, safe family event for folks, and we've had a lot of help from the community this year. I think we've had like 36 treat stops, and they all come help decorate, so that saves us a lot of work. We still have a lot of work to do to get set up for them and get electricity and lights and stuff, but basically, without the help of all of the clubs and businesses and stuff that come do trick or treating stops, it would be really hard to do this event. So we really appreciate their help."

Walking through the different treat stops, it was easy to tell that the community booth volunteers were having just as much fun as the kids as they handed out treats.

"They try to get some (candy) from me when they come out the exit gate," Sexson said. "I try to get some from them, but it doesn't work."

In addition to the candy stops and the Harry Potter train, the zoo also brought back last year's Sleepy Hollow Wagon Ride, where guests hear the classic tail as they make their way around Finnup Park.

"The best part of Boo! at the Zoo is just the atmosphere itself," Brian Nelson, executive director of Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo, said as he looked at the people lined up all the way down Finnup Drive waiting to enter the festivities. "Halloween is coming up, and it's just kind of our gateway to that holiday."

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