Dillon's carry-out baggers will raise an eyebrow in suspicion when I open the trunk of my Saturn to load my weekly bread and butter, only to reveal 50 stiff flamingos. And when I say stiff, it's not a reference to something that is — well — dead. I'm referring to stiff flamingos that tend to brighten any home landscape while making master gardeners have a rigid cringe. That's right, my car trunk is a sardine can of plastic yard flamingos.
While I might have difficulties explaining the contents of my car to a grocery carry-out, I can explain them to those who love a good prank. These flamingos are used during Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo's membership drive. Simply purchase a Friends membership as a gift for a neighbor, friend or favorite mother-in-law and 50 plastic flamingos will flock to the residence to congratulate the homeowners.
March is when Friends focus extra effort on recruiting new zoo supporters. There are numerous benefits offered to Friends' members. Significant benefits include year-round free drive-through admission and reduced admission at more than 150 other accredited zoos and aquariums nationwide. For example, those holding a membership card for Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo can receive half-price admission into Wichita's Sedgwick County Zoo. Tickets to our fellow AZA neighbor cost $13.95 each or $8.95 for children. Do the math. That's $45.80 for the average family of four. Our membership card cuts that in half.
Bringing the focus back to Lee Richardson Zoo, members also receive a 10 percent discount at the Safari Shoppe, which our new Dippin' Dot enthusiasts are likely to enjoy. Members are also eligible to take advantage of Safari Cycle punch cards. Rent four cycles and get one free. After a cycle through the zoo, members can swing back by the Safari Shoppe and purchase Richardson Railroad train tickets — for half price!
As a new added perk this year, members will also receive free passage onto the Friends' Red Line Trolley Service. Thanks to the generosity of the Mary Jo Williams Charitable Trust, the Red Line Trolley is a shuttle service that will continually loop through the zoo with stops at designated locations. Sure, Lee Richardson Zoo is no San Diego in size, but still covers 50 acres. That's a lot of walking for someone who is stalking the bison, but discovers that they are craving one of the Safari Shoppe's famous hot dogs with a Pepsi on the side. Thanks to the Trolley, which will debut in April, that bison stalker can jump on the Trolley, arrive at the Safari Shoppe within a few minutes, break the bank and then shuttle back to the West Green for a picnic. And as a reminder, funds generated from the gift shop and concessions are all reinvested back into the zoo, as are membership funds.
So, join today! An individual membership is only $30 for the year and provides one membership card for one person. Family or grandparent memberships are $50 and offer two membership cards for residents in the same household. Patron memberships (four cards) are available for $130 and sustaining memberships (eight cards) are available for $240. Patron and sustaining members don't have to live in the same household. The additional cards may be gifted to whomever the member chooses. By the way, checks are payable to FOLRZ and can be mailed to P.O. Box 1638, Garden City.
The Red Line Trolley Service will start operation on weekends only. The shuttle service will be offered throughout the week, weather permitting, coinciding with summer vacation. Non-members may ride the trolley for $2 per ride. A day-pass will be offered for $5.
Membership offers many added bonuses to the zoo visit and experience, but most importantly, membership helps support your free-admission zoo. Lee Richardson Zoo is one of the last free-admission zoos in the country. I think that is something to be proud of. I hope you do, too.
Friends had 675 household memberships at the end of 2012, and 797 at the end of 2013. We've seen great support and growth over the past year and readily welcome more. Flock a friend today, or consider flocking yourself. Visit our website for more information. Click on "Members" and then click "Join" to complete the transaction. This plastic flamingo flock has nested in my car one day too many. Help them find a yard to roost in.
Brian Nelson is the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo executive director. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.folrz.org to become a Friend of Lee Richardson Zoo.