When an opportunity comes along to visit the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo after the sun goes down, I’d be hardpressed to pass it up. After a holiday party there a few years ago, I knew I couldn’t miss their ZippityZooDoo when I first learned about it.
Hosted by the Cleveland Zoological Society, the ZippityZooDoo is Cleveland’s longest-running benefit. For this year’s event Zoolin Rouge, the Zoo brought a little bit of Paris to Northeast Ohio.
After work on Friday, Scott and I drove over to the Zoo. As we walked through the main entrance, we were stunned by its transformation into a Parisian-inspired patio.
Under the giant tent that spanned the length of the walkway, rich fabrics and feathery centerpieces filled the view – a striking and opulent contrast to how the Zoo looks during the day – while music from The Orchestra filled our ears.
Once we found our table, Scott and I did a bit of exploring – meeting some of the zookeepers and a few of their animals. The African Elephant Crossing exhibit was also on full display as one of the elephants splashed around in the pond (a rare sight we were told later).
ZippityZooDoo centered around a 5 course feast inspired by French elegance. Things started off with a few hors d’oeuvres – our favorites being the duck prosciutto fava bean crostini and vichyssoise complemented with a small flower petal.
This was followed by the main event – the seated dinner. Overall, I found the different flavors of the 5 courses worked very well together – from the fresh tomato cucumber salad to the hearty peppercorn steak served with a saffron risotto gruyere croquette.
Scott and I both agreed, though, that the best course of the evening was the smoked salmon caviar accompanied by a dill crème fraiche. Salmon dishes tend to always win out for us – especially smoked salmon. Served between the salad and the blood orange sorbet entremet, the rich savoriness of the caviar was perfect in its flavor and sequence.
The cheese plate that concluded the dinner was a refreshing touch. After a large dinner, the last thing I wanted was a heavy or too-sweet dessert. Marie Antoinette may have liked her cake, but I would choose cheese and chocolate as my dessert any day of the week!
ARAMARK catered ZippityZooDoo’s dinner and although I know they mostly deal in food services, I was blown away by the quality of food and the preparation that went into the catered evening.
With the good food came great conversation thanks to our tablemates. Scott and I thoroughly enjoyed making friends with Roy, one of the most young-at-heart people I’ve ever met (who I think has me convinced to endure a 14-hour flight and take a trip to Australia), as well as hearing about the Zoo’s future plans from their Operations Director.
And, of course, I’ll never turn down an evening with PoiseinParma and Hansmatic!
The highlight of ZippityZooDoo, though, was learning about the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s educational programs. The purpose of the evening was to raise funds for the Zoo’s programs. During dinner, a spirited MC led pledging for the Zoo’s school initiatives raising over $50,000 in less than an hour.
These funds will allow the Zoo to continue its mission of not only being Northeast Ohio’s most popular tourist attraction, but also a valuable resource for active inquiry-based learning through programs like:
- The country’s only free Zoo Bus for local schools’ fieldtrips
- Overnights in the Zoo for all age-groups
- Career Day for high schoolers to learn about Animal Care, Education, and Veterinary Medicine
- Summer Day Camp for children ages 5-14
- And Distance Learning and Vet Bags for in-classroom learning
Although I knew education was a large focus of the Zoo, I hadn’t seen how much of an impact the institution has made on children and teachers until ZippityZooDoo.
We may have to wait another whole year for the next ZippityZooDoo; however, there are many other opportunities in the meantime to support the Zoo’s education and conservation efforts. From donating to becoming a member, check out the Cleveland Zoological Society to learn how you can help the Zoo continue offering these services year after year.
Disclosure: I was offered one ticket to attend ZippityZooDoo in exchange for blogging about it. The opinions expressed here are my own. Scott purchased his own ticket to attend.