The 25th Anniversary of Zoobilee at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens was a towering silver safari success with more than 450 guests in attendance. The magical evening, full of sparkle, glimmer and glam, raised funds to help support The Living Desert’s mission of desert conservation through preservation, education and appreciation. Funds raised also help provide programming such as school field trip scholarships, community outreach and events, as well as exhibit and infrastructure improvements, in addition to supporting species conservation efforts around the world.
Upon arrival, guests, dressed in safari chic, were escorted to the Palm Garden via tram tour through construction of the Crossroads of Conservation, which includes a new park entrance scheduled to open early fall, the Patti and Jack Grundhofer Entry Plaza, the Living Legacy Endowment Garden, guest services building, gift shop, and eventually lion and rhino habitats.
Greeting attendees at the Palm Garden, which was decked out with white lights and fire torches, was The Living Desert President/CEO Allen Monroe with Bubo the great horned owl. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres along with an amazing silent auction and additional animal encounters were found throughout the garden while the sounds of African rhythms and bongo drums filled the air.
Afterwards, a sumptuous three-course meal catered by LULU California Bistro was served in a magnificent tent with hanging crystal chandeliers, mirrored bars, silver sequin chair covers, and clear glass bubble centerpieces filled with Phalaenopsis orchids. Monroe, who was introduced by emcee Brooke Beare, CBS Local 2 evening news anchor, welcomed guests and presented an overview of the expansion projects. Auctioneer Mike Shumard of California Coast Auctions and auction host/local attorney Brian Harnik empowered the audience to bid on a variety of unique live auction items.
A highlight of the evening was the ‘raise-the-paw’ bidding where The Living Desert’s porcupine, Mr. Prickles, gave high-fives to Annette Smith, Kirk Lanterman, and Sharon Baltzell for donating $25,000 each.
Also celebrating 25 years this year is The Lion King, and event planner Frank Goldstin’s Momentous Events weaved the theme throughout the evening including stage performers dancing and singing “Hakuna Matata,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “The Circle of Life.”
The evening’s program also honored Karen Sausman, founder of The Living Desert, who served as President/CEO for 40 years. And new this year, Jacob Finley, a two-year ZooTeen with more than 900 volunteer hours, was awarded the first Karen Sausman Conservation Award Scholarship.
The Living Desert thanks its longtime supporters and the impressive 2018 Zoobilee! Gala committee led by Co-Chairs Barbara Spencer and Nancy Stegehuis, Honorary Co-Chairs Joy & Harry Goldstein, Patti & Jack Grundhofer, and JoAnn McGrath. Generous sponsors included Diamond Sponsor JoAnn McGrath, and Platinum Sponsors Peggy & Hal Bernthal, Joy & Harry Goldstein, Patti & Jack Grundhofer, Candace & Jon Holzgrafe, and Harold Matzner.
Save-the-date for next year’s Zoobilee: Saturday, March 2, 2019! Please contact Greg Murphy at (760) 346-9584 for more information and to get involved.