Zoos and botanical gardens find Halloween programs to be a great success and opportunity | News, sports, jobs
Enormous warty pumpkin. Carnivorous plants. Immersive spider displays. Sliding snakes and fluttering bats. and illuminated displays of hundreds or thousands of ornately carved lanterns.
It’s also a teachable moment, naturalists and conservationists say.
“Fall is a celebration of the natural world, so Halloween and the Botanical Gardens are an organic pairing,” says Michaela Wright, director of interpretive content at the New York Botanical Garden, where October marks “autumn.” The park’s Halloween shows began with a haunted tour in the greenhouse about 50 years ago, “and they continue to evolve and expand,” she says.
This year, there’s a Halloween pumpkin patch that includes exotic heritage varieties in blue, pink and other striking colors, as well as wart-covered varieties. Master Pumpkin Carver Adam Burton, a sculptor from Rochester, New York, known for his life-like lanterns, is hosting pumpkin carving events this weekend. And of course there’s the annual parade of giant pumpkins, some of which weigh upwards of 2,000 pounds.
At the Chicago Botanic Garden, “The Night of a Thousand Jack-o’-Lanterns” features elaborately carved and painted pumpkins, costumed performers, pumpkin carving demonstrations, and festive food. The park’s online adult education classes include a class on “Plants and Folklore,” and a Halloween center with information about seasonal plants and pumpkins.
Meanwhile, many zoos host Halloween programs with names like “Boo at the Zoo” or “Zoo Boo.”
“We started hosting what we call ‘HalGLOween’ in 2017 and it has become one of our biggest attractions of the year, providing a large audience for our conservation messages,” says Lisa Martin, Wildlife Conservation Ambassador for the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “. .
She says the event started as one weekend in October, and was so popular that it was expanded to include two weekends. Now held every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for most of October, Halloween has become one of the most popular times of the year at the Zoo.
“There’s no trick-or-treating. We don’t give out candy,” she says, adding that this is a relief to many parents.
This year’s “HalGLOween” features a “Skeleton Band,” a “Boo Crew” of scarecrows walking on stilts, and an illuminated “Python Path” through the reptile house, among other events.
The immersive display of spiders in the Cool Critters building “gives kids a chance to learn about something that looks scary but might not be so scary in real life,” says Martin.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park north of the city also has a bat house.
At the zoo, which is also a certified botanical garden, the “Wildlife Explorers Camp” houses all kinds of insects, and colonies of bees and ants. Elsewhere, gardeners are on hand to answer questions about scary-sounding plants like strangler vines and vampire dragon orchids.
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Indiana, is hosting a series of “Wild Zoo Halloween” events. Each weekend in October features a different theme, such as “Superhero Weekend,” “Pirates and Princesses Weekend,” “Witch and Wizard Day,” and, for those over 21, “Rock and Roar Halloween.” With live music and drinks.
The Bronx Zoo in New York offers “Boo at the Zoo” events during the day and “Pumpkin Nights” after sunset. At night, guests can follow the jack-o-lantern trail featuring more than 5,000 illuminated pumpkins while learning about nocturnal animal behavior.
“People learn best when they’re having fun, and they might come to have some fun on Halloween and go home with a better understanding of conservation,” says Martin, of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
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