One of Indy’s biggest fundraisers takes place every June at the Indianapolis Zoo – Zoobilation. It’s a fancy affair, and reports from the Zoo indicate the event raised $1.3 million, a new record.
I’ve heard about Zoobilation for years and, honestly, I didn’t think it was my cup of tea. But this year, I tweeted my way into the official 2012 Zoobilation Twitter Team (aka #IndyZoob) along with Casey Mullins, Michelle Study-Campbell and Evan Strange (pinch-tweeting for original team member Leslie Bailey).
As part of the team, we’re invited to a fashion show at Saks Fifth Avenue, complete with small bites and big tastes. Fashionistas show up to catch a glimpse of this year’s festive formal looks. Another perk: A few weeks ago, the #IndyZoob team sneaked a peak of the beaks of Flights of Fancy, the Zoo’s newest exhibit dubbed “A Brilliance of Birds presented by Citizens Energy Group”.
But the main event, which took place on Friday, is where it’s at, as approximately 4,500 attendees carouse around the Zoo to enjoy delicacies and libations from area restaurants and food artisans, lots of music and dancing, and a plethora of people watching opportunities. The theme for this year’s Zoobilation was “The Grand Voyage” so the cruise theme defined the décor.
Zoobilation is supposed to be a formal event complete with a pink carpet this year to greet guests. However, the men show up in all shades of black-tie from penquin suits to tux shorts and everywhere in between while the ladies don a mix of elegance, style and comfort. It’s kind of like your high school prom on steroids. Some people get all animal-themed, some go for classic formal, some just want to be comfortable, some try to get all matchy-matchy and others just do their own thing.
I decided to heed the advice of the Zoo and found a comfy pair of slip-on sneakers in black/grey plaid that meshed pretty well (if I do say so myself) with my trusty black suit, skinny black/grey striped tie and French-cuff dress shirt in classic white. My wife looked sophisticated and gorgeous in a dress she found on RentTheRunway.com. (Check us out here!)
More than 70 Indianapolis area restaurants and bars offered their best culinary creations from tents stringed throughout the Zoo grounds and the bridge heading over to White River State Park. I was a big fan of the smoked short ribs from Chef JJ’s Big Green Bistro, guacamole and pulled pork tostadas from Adobo Grill, and the BRU Bourbon bacon slider.
The judge’s Best Appetizer went to the Severin Bar & Grill for their pulled pork taco and Best Entrée was the burgundy braised boneless short ribs from the JW Marriott. 10-01 Broad Ripple earned the People’s Choice award through text voting.
And save (lots of) room for my wife’s favorite food group – dessert. Seasons 52’s mini indulgences won Best Dessert, and I wholeheartedly endorse their German chocolate cake. I also was fond of the glazed donut from Meridian Restaurant & Bar and have a sweet spot for the sea salt caramels from Best Chocolate in Town.
My fellow Zionsville alum Erin Edds won Best Drink from the judges with her new Hoosier Momma Margarita Mixers (in Key Lime and Strawberry Rhubarb).
I spotted many familiar faces including gubernatorial candidate John Gregg and a gaggle of TV news personalities. But I also got to say hello to several friends and colleagues from executive directors of great organizations, civic leaders, PR peeps, and many, many others.
Honestly, the music at Zoobilation just isn’t my thing. This isn’t mean to be a put-down, but it was like every kind of band you might hear at a wedding perched on four stages throughout the sprawling scene, but you could find all varieties and they all seemed good at their style. There was even a thumping DJ party tent for those who wanted to channel their inner club-goer.
Another good time was riding the roller coaster. You haven’t really ridden the rickety rails until you’ve done so in black-tie.
In the end, Zoobilation is really all about animals and the Zoo’s efforts to empower people and communities, both locally and globally, to advance animal conservation. That’s what gets me excited as IndyHub’s resident green blogger and why I was happy to be a part of this year’s event.
I think the president and CEO of the Zoo, Mike Crowther, sums up its stewardship role quite well, “We're not a zoo doing conservation; we're a conservation organization that happens to be a zoo.”
Ryan Puckett is principal of two21 LLC, a communication firm with a focus on providing creative content, advocacy and communications strategy for all things pertaining to sustainability. Ryan is an Indiana University-Bloomington grad and alum of Northwestern University’s School of Journalism. He lives in Broad Ripple with his wife, son and dog, is a veteran of 160+ Phish shows and is a long-suffering Cubs fan. Contact Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @rmpuckett.