The 2012 Mesker Park Boo at the Zoo was, as usual, a treat for my 5 year old daughter. However, as a parent reviewing a local Zoo event, I was a little less than impressed. Lack of animals, treats, and interaction round out my disappointment for 2012. It would appear that the annual event has been in decline since the relaunch, when Amazonia first appeared.
The first year of Boo at the Zoo, when Amazonia first opened, I thought was the peak of the event. Visitors were met with countless hands on interactions with animals and Mesker staff. While waiting in the enormous line, Zoo employees were walking around with bunny rabbits and other small animals for kids to pet. Throughout the trail, scattered around the Zoo, were also countless animal interactions.
[quote type="center"]The first year of Boo at the Zoo, when Amazonia first opened, I thought was the peak of the event.[/quote]
Boo at the Zoo for 2012 had only a few animal interactions, namely the exhibit in the reptile room. Here kids could touch roaches, a snake, and lizards, but only if they waited in an ever growing line and felt like being crammed in a little room. At this point I felt like I was actually on display at the Zoo! There simply were not enough animal encounters spread amongst the trail and the room with the only hands-on experience was not large enough to support the crowds.
So, what about non-interactive displays? You would at least expect to see the animals that are usually at the Zoo. I was disappointed to find that the majority of animals in their normal cages were not lit or event attempted to be lit for evening display. It felt like a walking trail through an abandoned complex, it was a Boo without the Zoo.
Advertising instead of Treats
2012 was an improvement over previous years, in regards to treats being handed out. I understand a lot of volunteers and companies are there to support the zoo, but it's discouraging to my 5 year old to get a promotional flyer instead of a piece of candy. I'm not sure what these companies pay to have a booth on the trail, but I'm paying $6 as a Zoo member to walk around and I don't want to be hit with flyers at every step.
What to Improve
Below is a list of items I think could be addressed, to help improve and grow the popularity of Boo at the Zoo, instead of going into a decline.
- Light the animals cages that are along the trail.
- Have more animal interactions.
- More treats and less promotional trash handed out by the booth operators throughout the trail.
- Music! While we were there I did not hear a live band or any kind of music being played, even at the entrance or exit.
- Fill those empty cages. Yes, Donna has passed, but it appears that the empty space is growing in the Zoo, no matter if it's Halloween or not.
Lastly, I think that Boo at the Zoo is a wonderful event and opportunity. One of too few in the Evansville area that have the potential to be bring in people from around Evansville. I only hope that the opportunity is not squandered away by overzealous promotions and lack of attention to what makes a Zoo so special. Mesker Park Zoo and Botanical Garden used to be a world class operation, let's work on bringing that level of experience back.