Fall is in full swing! Leaves are falling from the trees, the weather is getting cooler, and everyone is gearing up for the fast-approaching holiday season! Lee Richardson Zoo will be celebrating as well when we host our last of four seasonal 85th birthday events. The fall event will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday with many family-oriented activities.

Starting at 2:15 p.m. and continuing every half-hour until 3:45 p.m., guests will have the chance to experience animal encounters with several of our zoo animals. Animal encounters include keeper talks, special enrichment items, and discovery carts with touchable animal skulls and pelts. You won't want to miss this opportunity to learn about the animals from those who know them best! If the weather permits, the elephants might even have a surprise for one lucky guest!

Visitors will also have a special opportunity to get their picture taken with one of our feathered animal ambassadors. If you attended BOO! at the Zoo! or A Wild Affair recently, you may have had the opportunity to meet one of our education owls. The zoo has two owls that we use during programs: a screech owl, who we affectionately have dubbed "Screech" and a barn owl whose name is Bowie. Both of these raptors, along with their docent handlers, will be taking a shift at the picture-taking station. For $3 we will take a picture with our camera of you with the owl and develop it for you. For $1 we will take a picture of you with the owl with your cellphone or personal camera. If you would like a picture of just the owl by himself, then feel free to snap away!

There will also be a craft table where the young and young-at-heart can create a festive turkey picture using crayons, leaves and paint! Not only will your masterpiece look spectacular at your family Thanksgiving dinner, but it will also help demonstrate just one of many easy crafts you can create using natural materials found outside.

And what would a birthday party be without cake? The Safari Shoppe will be open for the event to serve free cake to visitors while supplies last. While you are there, be sure to browse the merchandise and pick up some Christmas gifts for family and friends!

We certainly do have a lot to celebrate! Lee Richardson Zoo was established in 1927 by the local chapter of the Izaak Walton League and the City of Garden City. IWL member and Chief of Police Lee Richardson assumed the duties of zoo superintendent, and members brought in native wildlife, including two skunks, bobcats and deer fawns, to get the zoo started. Since then, the zoo has grown to include nearly 300 animals representing more than 110 species, many of which are endangered. We have come a long way in the last 85 years and continue to expand. This year saw the completion of a new African Spurred Tortoise exhibit and the start of Cat Canyon construction.

One of our volunteers will be at the front gate handing out flyers with more details about the locations of the animal encounters and other activities. Be sure to come by and help us celebrate the zoo's 85th fantastic birthday!

Be sure to visit our new website at www.leerichardsonzoo.org.