Summer is finally here! The pools are full, school is out and the 4th of July is just around the corner. Here at the zoo, things are in full swing with Zoo Edventures, preparations for Blues at the Zoo and the 85th Summer Birthday Celebration.

Lee Richardson Zoo turns a whopping 85 years old this year! In honor of this great milestone, the third of four birthday celebrations will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. July 4 Families are invited to celebrate with us for the summer installment of our 85th Birthday Extravaganza!

The 4th of July is an American tradition that brings the family together. Some of my most vivid memories of the 4th of July involved visiting the zoo, listening to the Garden City Municipal Band and watching the fireworks at night. This year it is my pleasure to plan this event. Those nostalgic elements will be present as well as many daytime activities including crafts, animal enrichment, keeper talks and much more.

Everyone knows animals eat plants, but what about plants eating animals? If you have ever had a question about a plant that eats meat, then here's your chance to ask! Local entrepreneur Gary Gipson of Gipson Jewelers will bring his carnivorous plants to the 85th Birthday Celebration. Let him spark your curiosity as you explore the wild world of Venus flytraps! Gary's extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for his plants is very impressive and is sure to make you want your own.

Another fun activity at the 85th birthday involves a glimpse into the daily life of a zoo keeper. Our keepers provide expert care for our animals each and every day, so stop by to chat or watch as they provide enrichment for their animals. At 3:15 p.m., you will have the opportunity to learn about our national symbol, the majestic bald eagle. Meet at the eagle exhibit to learn about the bird that is symbolic of our freedom.

Elephants Missy and Kimba love showing off for a crowd. Watch at 3:45 p.m. as they receive special treats from their keepers. At 4:15 p.m. head over to the South American Pampas exhibit where we'll have a keeper chat about the alpacas. Last but not least see the sloth bears clean up their act by "vacuuming" up their food at 4:45 p.m.

The Garden City Humane Society will be at our party, too! If you are looking for a new pet, the first step as a responsible pet owner is to do research on the animal. If a pet is in your future, consider all of your options before acquiring a new furry family member. Stop in and talk to one of these knowledgeable people for advice on getting just the right pet.

The Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo will be on hand to answer questions and share the benefits of zoo memberships. They will also be selling the memberships on site, so if you want to become a "Friend," here's your chance and encourage your friends to become "Friends," too. Stop by the booth and meet our new director, Brian Nelson, and learn about what's "gnu" with the Friends of the Zoo!

The Mona Lisa, Starry Night and cockroach paintings? Who says art can't be fun? The education department will be selling animal paintings to help raise money for a new nature play area. For kids of all ages, a birthday card contest will be held in the art booth on the west green. Every birthday needs a card, so stop in and try your hand at making a wildly fun card for the zoo! The contest is open for anyone 3 and older with many age categories, and the winners will be displayed in the Finnup Education Center until Aug. 1.

We are proud of our past and excited for the future of our zoo. So take a break, grab the family and stroll through the zoo on Independence Day. This Red, White and Zoo party will end with a concert by the Garden City Municipal Band directed by Clint Raynes on the west green at 8 p.m. and community fireworks to follow. The zoo will be open late, but bring your lawn chair early for the best seats it will be a roar.