Carter Block, Tracy Block, and President/CEO Rich Block | Credit: Gail Arnold

On August 26, 800 supporters donned sparkly and shiny outfits for the annual Zoofari Ball in celebration of the Santa Barbara Zoo’s 60th anniversary. The wildly popular, grand fundraiser raised about $650,000 for the Zoo’s operations. Several months of work by Tyler Speier Events, the Zoo’s Megan Nuss, and a 50+ member event committee created this extravaganza.

Upon arrival, guests were offered a sparkling beverage with a disco ball swizzle stick to sip as they strolled the walkway to the scenic hilltop for a delightful two-hour reception. Gourmet food stations lined the perimeter, while silent auction items beckoned in the center. For dinner, guests adjourned a bit higher up, where they were seated al fresco.

With a seventies disco-inspired Sparkle & Shine theme, tables were covered with sparkly linens and topped with table numbers sporting animal silhouettes. In a nod to the Zoo’s work with monarch butterfly conservation, potted trees embedded with butterfly silhouettes were positioned among the tables. There was a tasty buffet dinner, a short program, and dancing to music by The Collective Music Group.

Fundraising events are critical for the nonprofit Zoo’s operations, with contributions and special events accounting for 14 percent of operating revenue this year. Myriad capital projects over the years demand additional fundraising efforts.

In an interview, Board President Derek Shue shared his excitement for the Zoo’s planned collaboration with California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) that will create a Zoo-owned and managed conservation center on the CSUCI campus. Announced last spring, the plan addresses the Zoo’s need for space to expand its wildlife conservation efforts. Threatened and endangered species currently housed by the Zoo include Western snowy plovers, California red-legged frogs, California condors, and Western pond turtles. 

The Zoo will shift the majority of its conservation activities to the new center. The partnership will give students and faculty hands-on opportunities with wildlife conservation and research and offer many other benefits to both the S.B. Zoo and the University.

Shue related that “by working together, we will be able to not only increase the capability and reach of our conservation program and have the room we need to take care of the at-risk populations in our area, but also form a strong bond with other departments at the university that will aid in other departments around the Zoo.”

Upcoming events at the Zoo include the 6-night Halloween-inspired Boo at the Zoo event in late October and Zoolights!, featuring thousands of lanterns illuminating animal and nature scenes starting November 15.

Since COVID shuttered its extensive volunteer program, the Zoo has been slowly bringing back longtime volunteers but is still at less than half the level it had been before COVID and welcomes new volunteers.

The Santa Barbara Zoo has more than 500 animals representing 146 species residing on 30 lush acres. More than 492,000 visitors came last year, up from a 2019 level of almost 433,000.

Reservations are required for admission. Very reasonably priced memberships offer lots of benefits.

Sponsorship & Special Events Officer Megan Nuss with Honorary Event Chair, past board president and major sponsor George Leis and major sponsor Laurie Leis | Gail Arnold
Karla Parker and major sponsor Hutton Parker Foundation President Tom Parker | Gail Arnold

Patrick Costello, Chase Muller, Boardmember and Event Committee Member Betsy Turner, and Chip Turner | Gail Arnold
Alina Dowson and Board President Derek Shue | Gail Arnold
Robyn and Jess Parker | Gail Arnold
Major sponsor U.S. Bank District Manager Vince Caballero and major sponsor Ginni Dreier | Gail Arnold


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