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Texas Zoo welcomes in new school year

By BY ERIN PRADIA - EPRADIA@VICAD.COM
Aug. 27, 2011 at 3:27 a.m.

Kandace Koch, 4, and her sister Kendall Koch, 2, hula hoop on the grass at Back to School day in the Victoria Zoo.

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For more information about the zoo, call 361-573-7681.

Victoria residents Jimmy and Gloria Ballard brought their 6-year-old daughter, Inara, to the Back to School Party at the Texas Zoo on Saturday.

The Ballards go to the zoo about once a month with their membership, but Saturday they went especially for the school event.

Inara said she thought the day would be fun and she was looking forward to getting her face painted many colors.

In addition to face painting, zoo visitors participated in a scavenger hunt throughout the zoo and inspected exhibits set up around the yard in the middle of the zoo, including miniature golf, hula hoops, limbo, bowling, chalk, coloring projects and coffee-filter butterfly crafts.

Later in the afternoon, children were invited to make "animal enrichment" crafts, making gifts for the animals.

"It could be a fruit kabob or a paper towel roll stuffed with something the animals like," said Amanda Rocha, program director at the Texas Zoo.

During the event, the zoo also took some animals out of their cages to show visitors.

"We walk around with an animal so people can touch it and learn more about it," Rocha said.

Zoo keepers gave three "Keeper Chats," throughout the day, sharing their expertise on particular animals and answering questions from guests.

"The rest is just kind of on your own, having some fun and exploring the zoo," she said. "Stuff they can do every day."

Rocha said Saturdays are usually very busy at the zoo, but she didn't know what to expect because of the hot weather.

While zoo members attended the event for free under their membership, community members were invited to experience the extra exhibits set up for the party for the normal daily entrance fee.

Holli and Travis Hasserodt were not aware of the special event when they brought Holli's sister, Heather Durst, who was visiting from Houston, and her three children, 6-year-old McKenna and 4-year-old twins Madison and Mason.

Holli Hasserodt said they were excited to see some of the special presentations. "It's a really cool zoo for such a small town."

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