Dining With Denise Neil

Zoobilee: a food event so big, the zoo is closed during the day

Saturday night’s Zoobilee is an eating, drinking, dancing good time.
Saturday night’s Zoobilee is an eating, drinking, dancing good time. File photo

Don’t try to go to the zoo during the day on Saturday. It’ll be closed.

That never happens, not even on Christmas or Thanksgiving. Zoobilee is the one exception every year.

The annual fundraiser at the Sedgwick County Zoo, 5555 Zoo Blvd., is such a big deal, it’s the only day of the year that the zoo closes to regular visitors. This year’s event happens from 6 p.m. until midnight on Saturday.

It’s not a cheap ticket – $150 a person – but for all you get, it could be worth it.

During Zoobilee, the grounds of the zoo are filled with tables of food and adult beverages, and attendees are free to roam and enjoy at will. The list of restaurants participating this year is long and includes Buffalo Wild Wings, Carlos O’Kelly’s, Deano’s Grill & Tapworks, Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Twelve Restaurant and Bar, Wichita Brewing Company and Pizzeria and more.

Live bands will perform throughout the event at different spots in the zoo. The lineup this year includes The Source, Infusion, Cory Angsten and The South 40 Band, DJ Carbon, Mumblin‘ Jones and Blue Moon. At 9:30 p.m., headliners the Mudbugs Cajun & Zydeco Band will take the main stage.

The zoo raises money by selling tickets, which cost $150 each, and with silent and live auctions. (The live auction allows companies and individuals to “adopt” animals for a year with their bids, and they sometimes get to name their animals’ offspring.) Money raised goes toward operating the zoo, and a portion is used to support the zoo's animal conservation initiatives in the wild. Tickets are $150 at the zoo’s website, www.scz.org.

I’ve been several times and will be there again on Saturday, checking out all the restaurants and cheering on the Mudbugs. See you there?