Zoo offers alternative Halloween events for children (photo gallery)
Oct. 25, 2013 at 5:25 a.m.
Updated Oct. 26, 2013 at 5:26 a.m.
Dressed in a blue princess gown with golden details and a glimmering yellow sash to match, Sarah Hawes waited patiently for her train.
She'd collected pockets full of candy from patrons around the court and petted an armadillo - which she described as "bumpy" - however, it was the lure of the train's whistle that garnered her full attention Friday afternoon.
Sarah, an avid gymnast, declared red her favorite color and bubble gum her favorite candy, but when it came time to choose a seat on the mini train rounding the zoo, she skipped the caboose and favored the green middle car.
Two other Disney princesses joined Sarah, and the three road off into the setting sun, happily ever after.
During the Halloween celebrations at The Texas Zoo in Victoria, more than 3,000 people enjoy free activities, such as the trick-or-treating geared toward younger children and the creepier nighttime haunting for those craving a bigger scare, said programs director Nathan Palmer. The event began Friday morning and continues through Saturday.
Sarah's mother, Stephanie Hawes, said she brings her daughter to the zoo often but particularly likes the free trick-or-treating event because "it's something different."
"She's not in school yet," Hawes said. "So it gives her something else to do."
The zoo decorates its court with semi-spooky elements, such as skeleton hands and tombstones marked with rest in peace, to elevate the Halloween experience every year for the children petting a giant tortoise and goofing around with monkeys.
And at night, the show turns up with a scary puppet room, haunted house and famous haunted faces.
Princess Kynzi Jackson, 5, used her sweet smile and shiny tiara to guide her family from one exhibit to the next Friday afternoon, often dragging her 4-year-old cousin Luke Sager with her. "I love the turtles," she said to him from the petting zoos. "Let's hula hoop," she demanded from another.
As for Luke, once he got his hands on a few too many candy lollipops, he was overjoyed to go anywhere, including a small hut to look at alligators.
"It's good for our small town," Randi Jackson said, watching her daughter, Sarah, as she ran toward the train. "She loves it."