Nineteen years ago, about this time of year, staff from the zoo and Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo were putting the finishing touches on planning for the first annual BOO! At The Zoo! Who knew the event would grow to be such a popular community event, and be approaching its 20th anniversary next year. BOO! has definitely changed its stripes, growing in size, fun, attendance, volunteers, and the number and variety of treat stops.

These days, our volunteer crew, consisting of many dedicated board members and their families or friends, have the routine down to a science. That first year, we had no idea what we were doing, or what response to expect from the community. Needless to say, it was tremendously popular, and the small cadre of workers setting up and running the event were quite relieved when rain shut the event down 30 minutes early! We were both exhausted and elated by the end of the evening, not to mention drenched to the bone. Since that evening, the weather has been more than kind, giving us many event days with balmy temperatures and little to no precipitation to sidetrack our plans. I am probably jinxing myself with such statements, but hopefully BOO! 2012 will again enjoy pleasant weather and attract record numbers of little ghosts and goblins, superheroes, princesses, Raggedy Anns and miniature Grim Reapers. And their parents, of course...!

This year BOO! is set for Oct. 20, from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Admission is just $5 per person at the gate, with all proceeds benefitting future zoo improvements. If you have a hankering to get started early, our gate for those guests holding Advance Passes creaks opens at 4 p.m. Even better, tickets bought in advance will save you some cash, as they give you $1 off the general admission ticket price. Typically, the earlier hours are preferred by the more squeamish or timid trick-or-treaters, while the later and darker it gets, the older and braver the crowd gets.

Regardless of which hour you prefer, your ticket will enable you to enjoy a spooky path through the zoo decorated with treat stops sponsored by local organizations and businesses. If your business or group is not yet signed up but would like to support the zoo and community by being involved in this fun event, it's not too late, but don't wait another minute. Call the FOLRZ office today for details and get signed up. The deadline is actually past, but we have room for a few more treat stops if you act quickly. Volunteer groups or individuals interested in helping set up, clean up or work during the event are also greatly appreciated. Give us a call at 276-6243.

So you may be wondering if there is anything new this year at BOO! and the answer is yes! We'll expand our "dinner" offerings for those in the admission line or exiting the zoo by offering Frankenweenies (hot dogs) and Monster barbecue beef sandwiches. Soft drinks and apple cider, as well as whole pumpkin pies to take home, will also be available for purchase.

Also new this year, exclusively for those special people who are zoo members, is the Sleepy Hollow Wagon Tour. Enjoy refreshing apple cider followed by a jaunt around Finnup Park in a horse-drawn wagon, accompanied by none other than the infamous Ichabod Crane, reading excerpts from the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Remember to keep your eye peeled for the Headless horseman! At the conclusion of the wagon ride, your party will enter BOO! At The Zoo through a special "members only" entrance, and avoid the long lines.

To take advantage of this fun adventure, you need to hold a Family or Grandparent level or higher membership with FOLRZ (upgrades of Individual memberships and new members are welcome), and purchase a Skeleton key pass for $8 for each member of your group. This offer is available through the Friends office only, and a limited number of seats and reserved times are available. For more details, call Brian or Jessica and reserve your spot today!

BOO! At The Zoo! is a safe and fun way to take your little ones (or yourself) trick-or-treating, and get into the Halloween "spirit" a little early. Who says BOO! is just for kids? Advance tickets are available at the Safari Shoppe, FOLRZ Office, El Remedio and Wards Garden Center through noon on Oct. 20, and can also be purchased online at until Oct. 16.

And, of course, this is a great time of year with cooler temperatures, fall colors, more active animals and a new baby Goeldi's monkey to enjoy a trip to the zoo. Remember that we are now on our regular hours of 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily (guests may stay until 5 p.m.), and the zoo will be closed during the day on Oct. 20 to allow for set up of BOO! Come see us soon.

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