For more than a decade, thousands have enjoyed the fun at Pine Grove Zoo
By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
The Pine Grove Zoo is getting ready for the 11th annual Zoo Boo.
Pine Grove Zoo Director Marnita Van Hoecke, zoo staff, and a couple hundred volunteers will begin preparations Monday to turn the Zoo into a Halloween wonderland for the Saturday, Oct. 26 event.
The flurry of activity accelerates by Thursday, when volunteers gather at the Pine Grove Park shelter building to carve the 400 pumpkins that will line the paths of the Zoo Boo. Volunteers are always needed and welcome to help with the carving, from 5 p.m. until all the pumpkins are carved.
The day of the event, volunteers are needed as gate keepers, to greet and guide the tricks or treaters through the paths, take admission, help at education stations and more. From 3 p.m. – 7 p.m., families can enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Businesses, a key to the success of the event, donate staff and labor to decorate Halloween booths, where youngsters can “ooh and ahh” over their handiwork and receive free treats.
Van Hoecke’s favorite part of the event is watching the kids come in and seeing the variety of costumes.
Over the years staff and volunteers have worked to expand the Zoo Boo experience. “It’s not just about candy,” said Van Hoecke. “It’s a fun-filled night for the whole family. It’s an all-entertaining event.”
Even the animals get into the act, with animals getting their own pumpkins to play with or eat. Carnivores enjoy pumpkins as well, since zoo staff puts some meat inside.
Van Hoecke said zoo staff gives the animals pumpkins a week ahead of time, to see what they like and what it takes to encourage the animals to play with the pumpkins.
“We want the animals to be active, so people remember, that they are coming to a zoo. Since it’s mostly during the daytime hours, they can enjoy the animals and the atmosphere,” she said.
Not only does the event help raise funds for the zoo, but Van Hoecke said it helps the entire town, as guests come from all over Minnesota, and some from neighboring states.
“We’re trying to make it a unique family experience, fun for all,” Van Hoecke said.
Admission is lowered for the Zoo Boo, to $4 per person.
“What’s really enjoyable for me is watching the people; there are a lot of volunteer hours that go into this,” said Van Hoecke. “It’s very rewarding to know that the volunteers put their time in and people come and appreciate it — that’s what’s really amazing.”
For more information, call the Zoo at (320) 616-5595.