Last week, Lee Richardson Zoo hosted its annual "Party for the Planet" Earth Day celebration. Despite some colder weather to start the day, the event was a huge success! We had more than 1,400 students, teachers, volunteers and exhibitors brave the cold and come out and help us celebrate a greener, healthier world. In case you were not able to attend, here is a brief recap of what you missed.

Jay and Leslie Cady from Laughing Matters out of Kansas City gave a wonderful performance to more than 800 of the students. Their show, "Juggling the Earth's Resources," mixed education, humor, juggling and magic all while teaching the students about the water cycle, pollution and how they can be better stewards of our natural world. Adults and children alike were engaged by the antics of this fun-loving duo.

Richard Renner, an Earth Day favorite, joined us again this year with his "Recycle Cycle," a contraption that is part car, part bicycle and mostly made out of trash. The students loved banging on the different parts of the vehicle and playing with the other interactives while learning how to reuse materials and turn trash into fun, useful instruments.

Our wonderful keeper staff provided several animal talks for students throughout the day. The elephants demonstrated some of their many behaviors for groups of students, while the future Cat Canyon residents, the bobcats and jaguars, received some enrichment items, much to the delight of the crowds. Visitors were introduced to our new green tree python in the nocturnal building and got a chance to ask staff about the new red panda exhibit that is taking shape in the old macaque display.

Our craft this year would not have been possible without the help of our volunteers and numerous members of our community who saved toilet paper tubes and egg cartons so students could make a planter to take home. These planters contained seeds (milkweed, dill and parsley) specifically geared toward encouraging butterfly visitors. Hopefully, when all of these seeds turn into delicious butterfly plants, local migrating butterflies in southwest Kansas will have an easier time finding food.

And then, of course, there were all the wonderful exhibitors who gave their time and energy to the event to help teach students about taking care of our environment. Our event would not be nearly as successful without their help. This year, we had 17 exhibitors from Garden City and the surrounding community who set up booths with displays and fun activities for the students to enjoy. While many of these exhibitors have attended Earth Day in the past, we were excited to welcome some new organizations to our event. Their willingness to volunteer their time and brave the sea of eager children really helped make the day special.

Support from the community was also shown by donations of food, drinks, supplies and items for our teacher drawings. Then there are all the wonderful volunteers, both from the zoo and other organizations, who helped set up and tear down dozens of tables and chairs and assisted during the event.

Sad that you missed all the fun? Don't worry! We are already brainstorming ideas for next year's event which will take place on Wednesday, April 23. Even though that is still a year away, there are lots of things you can do while you are waiting to help our natural world. Earth Day was created to increase awareness of the health of the environment, but should not be limited to just one day or week out of the year.

One of the best (and easiest!) things you can do is just get outside and enjoy nature. Whether that is at the zoo, a local park or your own backyard, nature is all around us. Spending time outdoors increases our appreciation of the wonderful resources we have and helps us to remember to make every day Earth Day!

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