Zoo will have treasure chests of Dippin' Dots soon

Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo received a special delivery last week that may have caused a stir in passing spectators. A flatbed trailer was spotted in front of the Ben Grimsley arches unloading two large freezers, two small freezers and one vending cart. As the freezers were unloaded, a comment was made that the large freezers could house a cadaver. Given the zoo is not a medical institute, the freezers already are reserved for something a little more tasty. Dippin' Dots' ice cream is rolling into Lee Richardson Zoo.

Though the "ice cream of the future" has not arrived yet, the new freezers will be packed and ready to go along with the reopening of the Safari Shoppe for the season on March 1. Dippin' Dots was founded in 1988 by Curt Jones, a microbiologist, who pioneered the process of cryogenic encapsulation, which is a freezing method to create little beads of ice cream. Flavors offered at the Safari Shoppe will include: chocolate, vanilla, birthday cake, Oreo cookies and cream, banana split, chocolate chip cookie dough, strawberry cheese cake (yogurt) and rainbow ice (a non-dairy product). Feature flavors will be available for a limited time throughout the year.

With the introduction, two ice cream sizes will be offered a kiddie serving for $2 or a regular serving for $3. Sundaes and floats also will be available at the Safari Shoppe. Once summer arrives, guests will also be able to find their favorite Dippin' Dots flavors out in the zoo on a mobile cart located on the playground near the Wild Asia exhibit. Conveniently, the zoo train and new on-grounds shuttle will make stops nearby.

The Red Line Trolley Service more commonly known as an Eco Star Shuttle is a tram service that Friends will be operating through the zoo's drive-through during the summer season. Funded by the Mary Jo Williams Charitable Trust, this 14-passenger shuttle is basically a zero emission "stretch" golf cart, with a flashy fire-engine red finish. Members will receive free passage with proof of membership and non-members will be able to catch a ride for a small fee.

Like the Richardson Railroad, the Red Line Trolley is another "green" amenity, as it is completely electric and does not depend on fossil fuels for operation. Other than day use, the trolley will prove most beneficial as a people-mover to shuttle groups to and from events, such as "Blues At The Zoo" and "A Wild Affair." There will be no charge for passage during ticketed events, with the exception of "Boo! At The Zoo" as the trolley is transformed into the "Night Bus" from the wondrous world of Harry Potter in conjunction with the train's transformation into the "Hogwarts Express."

For those who have been on train withdrawal during Jack Frost's visit, I am pleased to report that the sounds of the train whistle will be heard once more during spring break this March. As our passengers still may be in danger of turning into popsicles during select days in March, the Richardson Railroad will not operate on a full-time basis again until human cannonballs have been sighted at The Big Pool. Until then, the train will operate on weekends, weather permitting. Passage on the Richardson Railroad is $4 per person and half price for members. Free passage is offered to those who are interested in becoming a train conductor I'm serious, by the way.

Friends are seeking both train conductors and shuttle chauffeurs. Applications are available in the Finnup Center for Conservation Education, located next to the zoo's drive-through exit. If driving is not your cup of tea, consider dishing out cups of Dippin' Dots. We are also looking for Safari Shoppe clerks. Unfortunately for your diet you will also have to sample all the ice cream flavors to educate the public when questioned about favorite flavors.

Please keep in mind that all positions based out of the Safari Shoppe are seasonal. While the shop closes in the fall, we are happy to welcome staff back as the gift shop gears up for another season. Ideal candidates are friendly, outgoing and must love animals the cotton-stuffed teddy bear kind that is.

Friends are looking forward to another busy season at the Safari Shoppe. For those who are not regular customers, please consider dropping by during your next zoo visit. Funds generated from the gift shop are reinvested back into the zoo. To the sweet point, that cup of Dippin' Dots ice cream will generate more than empty calories. And while we may have two large freezers in the back, be assured the Dots will never share a freezer with a cadaver.

Brian Nelson is the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo executive director. Email him at director@forlz.com. Visit www.folrz.org to become a Friend of Lee Richardson Zoo.