The Crowd: Santa Ana Zoo is the 'Cat's Meow' for ocelots

It's all happening at the zoo. At least, that's what the song says.

On a recent Saturday evening in Santa Ana, the Orange County philanthropic crowd dedicated to improving the lives of the animal kingdom came together for the 2012 Zoofari.

Presented Aug. 25 by Friends of the Santa Ana Zoo (FOSAZ), the party unfolded under an organization that has supported zoo projects for more than 34 years and strives to improve the animal care and conservation of the facilities at the Orange County property.

Zoofari 2012 was co-chaired by Newport Beach's Barbara Venezia and her pal journalist Frank Mickadeit, both of whom are columnists for the Orange County Register. The chairs planned a spectacular evening on the zoo grounds that began with sunset cocktails and plenty of photo opportunities with the animals.

A dedicated event committee supporting Venezia and Mickadeit included a huge turnout of Newport-Mesa loyalists including the three DebbiesFriedman, president of FOSAZ, Newmeyer and Schweickert. Also involved were Executive Director Cathi Decker, Anita Roach, Curtis Farrell, Donel Wiles, Kent Yamaguchi, Kevin Jackson, Rosanne Bye and Martha Treadway to name only a few.

The arriving cocktail crowd enjoyed a massive silent auction under the stars, which over the years has always been a big draw at Zoofari. Combined with the live auction that took place later in the evening, led by Glen Fladeboe as auctioneer, some 350 guests helped organizers raise nearly $80,000 net to support the facility on what was the 20th anniversary celebration of Zoofari.

The party was billed as "The Cat's Meow" and it took on a 1920s "glamour theme," replicating the "flapper" fun of that era. Even the food included hors d'oeuvres labeled as "Flappers and Flyboys," "Puttin on the Ritz" and "The Bee's Knees" delighted the crowd.

Special honorees of the evening included Mark and Shio Hui Harrison, Lucille and Mike Harrison, David Exline and Amos Bracero, who were all lauded for their support of ongoing zoo projects.

The net proceeds from the evening will be added to a fund of nearly $500,000 earmarked to bring a pair of Brazilian ocelots to the zoo. Ocelots, which come from South America, are often described a miniature cheetahs. Presently 26 Brazilian ocelots live in various zoos in the United States.

In addition to creating a special habitat for the animals, funds raised will help with the travel costs along with the initial medical expenses related to importing the creatures to the Santa Ana Zoo.

Enjoying dinner under the stars, which began with a summer fruit salad followed by an entrée of petite filet mignon paired with St. Peter's fish, the crowd danced to the music of the popular group the Class of 69. Supporting the evening were Dale Fink, Jane Olin, Diana Grummett, Dan Dunshee, Amy Snyder, Colby Cain, Steve McGuigan, Sandy Pignone, Peggy Baldwin-Butler, Lori Babcock and Vanessa Anderson.

The Santa Ana Zoo is Orange County's only Assn. of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited zoo, and is recognized for its excellence and its commitment to animal care. FOSAZ's mission is to provide a place of "fun and learning to be enjoyed by people of all ages."

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THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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