Summer officially started on June 21, according to the astronomical calendar, which divides the year into seasons based on the tilt of the Earth in relation to its orbit around the sun. In the northern hemisphere, the 21st was the longest day of the year, also known as the summer solstice, and had the most hours of sunlight of any day for the entire year. It was also World Giraffe Day, celebrating the longest-necked animal on the longest day of the year. If you weren’t able to attend the events for World Giraffe Day at the zoo on Thursday, don’t worry, there’s much more fun to be had at Lee Richardson Zoo as the year goes on.
On the Fourth of July, the west green of the zoo will be open late for those who wish to enjoy the Community Band concert and then view the fireworks from that location. Guests may drive in the Fourth Street entrance for free from 6 to 8 p.m. After 8 p.m., vehicle entry will be gained via the Fifth Street gate. The Community Band will entertain all with a concert beginning at 8 p.m. Fireworks will follow after dark. After the fireworks show is over, all guests will exit the zoo through the Fifth Street gate. For the safety of the animals, fireworks are not allowed on zoo grounds.
July 14 offers Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo’s Jungle Run Car Show (trucks and motorcycles are welcome, too). Registration is 8 to 11 a.m., with the show from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by awards on the West Green. Pre-registration is $25 while registering the day of the show is $30. The first 75 entries will receive dash plaques and goodie bags. For more information about the Jungle Run, visit www.folrz.org. Finney County Historical Museum will be hosting its annual Flea Market Festival of Antiques, Collectibles, Art and Crafts that day on zoo grounds north of the rhinos and giraffes from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., so there’s sure to be something for everyone to do at the zoo that day.
Summer Zoo Edventure Camp, which started earlier this month, still has room for others to join in. Grossology! for first/second-graders, Marine Mania! for third/fourth-graders and Junior Zoo Keeper for seventh/eighth-graders will take place in July. Visit the zoo’s website (www.leerichardsonzoo.org) or call (620) 276-1250 for more information.
World Lion Day is celebrated on Aug. 10, and Tumbleweed Festival Inc. will again be holding the Tumbleweed Festival on the west green of the zoo later that month (Aug. 24 to 26). More information on activities for World Lion Day will be available as the date draws closer. For information on Tumbleweed Festival, visit www.tumbleweedfestival.com.
There doesn’t have to be an event at the zoo for guests to have fun. Many are riveted watching the otters play, the swans float gracefully on the water, the bears forage for treats, or other zoo residents as they go about their day. Guided encounters with the rhinos and giraffes occur every Saturday and Sunday. There’s also Safari Cycles, the Richardson Railroad and the Richardson Riverbed mining sluice to enjoy, as well as treats from the Safari Shoppe.
Please be summer-smart while visiting Lee Richardson Zoo. High temperatures are a norm for at least some part of the summer in Kansas, and we have already experienced some three-digit days. Be sure to drink plenty of water on your trek around the zoo and enjoy the shady spots along the way. The animals will be doing similar activities to deal with the heat — enjoying pools, sprinklers, cool water, ice treats, resting in the shade, etc. Some, especially those who are native to colder climates such as red pandas, snow leopards, takin and Amur leopards, may even be resting inside their night quarters to enjoy the added coolness provided by those facilities.
Please remember to consider your pets during the heat also. Leaving them in your car or truck can be very dangerous, even fatal, for them. Even with the window cracked, it still gets too hot for them. The metal bed of a truck or hot pavement can burn their paws. Just like the animals at the zoo, your pets need water, shade and even access indoors, when it gets too hot.
Kristi Newland is the executive director of Lee Richardson Zoo.