They called it “Zoofari Safari.” Friends of Santa Zoo, a vital support wing led by the super-dedicated Cathi Decker, invited the SoCal crowd to a much-loved summer tradition — the 27th annual Santa Ana Zoo gala on the the park grounds.
A crowd of some 250 animal conservationists converged Aug. 24 at sunset in animal print black tie, entering the massive central courtyard of the zoo transformed by RWB Party Rentals into a California version of the African Serengeti.
Designers created props and backdrops to represent the Serengeti “Big Five” — leopards, buffalo, rhinos and lions. A stylish African bungalow was erected center stage, setting the mood and tone for an evening in the tamed wild to follow.
Greeting the arriving crush were zoo docents and handlers introducing special guests, including a French rooster, ball python and blue tongue skink to donors, including Lori and Bob Babcock, Cathy and Curtis Farrell, Karin and Howard Hall, Debbie and Tom Newmeyer, Karen and Jon “Rip” Ribble, and special honorees Jane Olin and Tim Jerkovich. Wait staff from Parties by Panache passed the cocktail of the night, “Serengeti Sunset,” while the crowd shared greetings with longtime zoo advocates.
“Longtime” is the operative and appropriate term for the vast majority of those supporting FOSAZ year after year. This is a big loving family serious about conservation, animal welfare, preservation and education of both the young and not-so-young on the condition of the animal world today, as well as looking forward into the future.
Honorees Olin and Jerkovich top the list of serious animal activists. Olin is a board certified laboratory animal medicine specialist, who worked at Edwards Lifesciences for some 20 years. With their two daughters, Linnea and Tindra, the couple are involved in local, regional and international conservation initiatives.
The family was feted by activists supporting FOSAZ, including underwriters Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, Gordon Shigenzawa, Carole and Del Stagg, Patti Mickey and Bill Lobel, Janet Ford, Bronte Golick, and Barry and Cathi Hofstetter. Also front and center for the animals were Michele Levison, Bill and Barbara May, Laurie Stewart, Bill and Donel Wiles, Tim and Lin McCook, Steve and Dannielle Schmidt, Joanne Driggers and Steve Collier, Bob and Mary Exline, Sharon Barry and Shari Ciko.
Emcee and auctioneer David Stone brought in the big bucks after the upbeat crowd dined on a Parties by Panache menu that began with a pear and Roquefort salad drizzled with caramelized walnuts and raspberries. Guests selected an entrée of steak, chicken piccata or summer veggies over pasta. For dessert, there was a trio consisting of flourless chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream profiteroles and fresh berries.
Partygoers, including zoo Director Ethan Fisher and board members Meredith McCombs, Edward Carroll, Roseanne Bye, Armando Armenta and board President David Exine, greeted the crowd, which checked out a massive silent auction with some 250 donated items.
Perhaps the best part of the evening was the freedom to roam the zoo and visit with residents. A night at Zoofari would not be complete without a journey on the zoo train at sunset, as the 50 primates in residence call out as the train choo-choo’s by.