The Garden City Telegram
6/18/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Natural fit

Local zoo finds new way to educate with an event.

A new event in Garden City may be small to start, but its potential extends in a far-reaching way.

Lee Richardson Zoo will be the site of the first Global Bazaar and Ten Thousand Villages Festival, scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in the Wild Asia parking lot at the zoo.

The cultural event will feature items shipped in by the Ten Thousand Villages organization, a nonprofit fair trade group that markets bags, scarves, jewelry, furniture, baskets, table linens, toys and other products handcrafted by disadvantaged artisans in Third World countries.

Funds collected through local sales will be sent back to the artisans' villages, with Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo receiving a small percentage for assisting in the sales. Those proceeds will benefit a new primate exhibit, the next big project ahead at the zoo.

Local vendors also will be involved in selling food and goods at the Global Bazaar. Organizers see the new event blossoming into one involving more local vendors who could offer a variety of food and products specific to ethnic groups in the area, along with dances and other cultural entertainment.

Credit organizers for viewing the new event as one that would go hand-in-hand with the global theme of the zoo, which has a layout divided into continents.

An international day at the zoo is indeed a natural fit. And, any opportunity to help people better understand ethnic diversity in an area that's a melting pot of cultures also makes sense.

Lee Richardson Zoo and other good zoo operations are on a multifaceted mission. Along with efforts to preserve animals and conduct worldwide conservation efforts, zoos also exist to educate the public.

While much of the education focuses on the animals, Lee Richardson Zoo also does a good job of sharing lessons on the environment and other aspects of life.

With the new Global Bazaar, zoo supporters have come up with another interesting fundraiser and educational event — as well as a different way to showcase diversity in a community with a longstanding, positive tradition of embracing people of many backgrounds.