Sedgwick County Zoo on Sept. 8 will host Zoobilee, its annual fundraising party that draws more than 4,000 patrons and more than 1,000 volunteers and usually raises more than a half-million dollars in revenue.
“We raise money from this event to support the operation of the zoo — the feeding of the animals,” said Steve Onken, the zoo’s director of development. The zoo is home to more than 2,500 animals.
“It’s a way for people to support the zoo and have a good time doing it,” he said. “It gives people a great upbeat feeling.”
Marvin Long, a volunteer who has been the chairman of Zoobilee for six years, stressed the importance of this year’s fundraiser.
“It will help alleviate the burden that the budget cuts have created,” he said.
Sedgwick County’s budget cuts mean a $255,889 drop — a 5 percent reduction — for 2013.
To help close that gap, Melissa Graham, the zoo’s marketing manager, said, organizers looked for more Zoobilee sponsors and worked to beef up the event’s live auction a bit. It will include the naming rights to the zoo’s two red panda cubs born in June.
The event also will feature food, drinks, music and a silent auction.
The silent auction will including mostly animal-themed paintings, stained glass and watercolors. Jessica Webb donated several pieces, including a pencil drawing of a rhinoceros. Frank Priest has submitted two hand-carved giraffes, and Cindy Pelky donated two stained-glass windows — one of a tiger, another of a peacock.
Local merchants also have donated event tickets, spa items and delicacies for the silent auction.
Zoobilee’s entertainment lineup includes nine bands and the headline performer, Cajun-y blues musician and Louisiana native Tab Benoit. He will play on the main stage by the giraffes after the auctions, likely around 9:30 p.m., Graham said.
The other acts will perform throughout the zoo and provide a variety of music, from country to swing: Dos Jazz, the Friends University Swing Band, Haywired, Mudbugs Cajun and Zydeco Band, Mumblin’ Jones, Two x Two, Soultice, The Soul Project and The Source.
Nearly 50 food vendors — including Buffalo Wild Wings, Freddy’s Frozen Custard, Kansas Star Casino, Mike’s Wine Dive and River City Brewery — will serve their fare at 40 sampling stations throughout the zoo, Graham said.
Guests also can enjoy six pampering stations that will offer services including lip gloss touch-ups and hand and chair massages.
“People need to come out and feel the energy,” Long said.
Costumed characters with the heads of lions, flamingos and penguins will walk around the park and entertain guests.
“You never know who might be out there,” Graham said.
Contributing: Lori O’Toole Buselt of The Eagle