Laurie Leis, President and CEO Rich Block, and incoming Board Chair George Leis | Credit: Gail Arnold

At this year’s Zoofari Ball, guests enthusiastically got into this year’s Summer Camp theme and the nearly 600 happy campers helped the zoo raise about $200,000.

Couples in matching camp T-shirts and shorts were at every turn, while others opted for the always popular safari attire. Upon arrival, guests strolled up the scenic walkway to the hilltop, while youth on each side serenaded them with camp songs.  Small colorful tents provided the perfect camp backdrop.

The two-hour reception was held on the zoo’s expansive hilltop lawns surrounded by lush botanical gardens. The Replicas’ Craftsmen and V & Sid provided the tunes from a fictional waterside camp stage, which sported nautical props, including a canoe and rowboat.  A multitude of other props combined to cleverly turn the zoo into summer camp, including a log cabin, archery targets, and life-like deer, moose, and horses.  

Rincon Events served up gourmet treats at several food stations, including crowd favorite french onion grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon jam or red wine and shallot jam.  An endless display of silent auction items garnered lots of attention.  

Guests dined under open-air tents at tables with attractive red and black lumberjack plaid linens and lanterns. After the buffet dinner, the happy campers danced the night away to music by the Replicas’ Main Attraction.

Event co-chairs Nancy McToldridge (Zoo director), Lisa Carter-Alford, and Taryn Choquette and their 42-member event committee started planning this year’s Zoofari Ball the day after last year’s event. Carter-Alford’s Behind the Scenes Event Design, which has done the event for 23 years, spent a whole week doing the install.

Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree was crowned “Camper of the Year.” She arrived in classic safari attire sporting Zoofari badges from many of the 25+ balls she has attended. Lady Leslie served on the Zoo’s board for seven years. The Zoo’s restaurant and animal kitchen bear her name. Robyn Parker received this year’s title of “Bar Babe,” along with her eponymous bar in the dining venue, in recognition of all her hard work on the committee.

The Santa Barbara Zoo is a nonprofit organization that receives no tax dollars. It has about 150 species and about 500 animals on its 30-acre ocean view estate. Its current budget is $12.8 million, with about 43 percent of revenue coming from admission fees, 45 percent from retail, concessions, membership, and educational activities, 10 percent from events and contributions, and 1 percent from investments.

The zoo has 160-200 employees, depending on the season, and more than 500 volunteers. It provides expertise to several conservation programs including ones directed at the California condor, the island fox, the California red-legged frog, the western snowy plover, the western pond turtle, the southern sea otter, and the arroyo toad.  

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Camper of the Year Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree and Brian King
Event Committee Member Robyn Parker and Jess Parker
Union Bank LA Managing Director Patrick Nygren, Union Bank SB Managing Director, Zoo Boardmember and Event Committee Member Vince Caballero, Event Committee Member Mindy Denson, and Chris Denson
Event Co-chair Lisa Carter-Alford and Lonnie Alford
Director of Retail Operations and Event Committee Member Ross Beardsley with Executive Assistant to the CEO and to the Zoo Director and Event Committee Member Colleen Dennis
Greeters at the entrance
Summer Camp-themed dŽcor

Dining venue
Laurie Leis, President and CEO Rich Block, and incoming Board Chair George Leis


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