By Phyllis A.S. Boros
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is ready to party — seriously party.
From Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 3, Beardsley Zoo will celebrate its landmark 90th birthday with a “90 Days of Summer” fest.
“Tons of great programming and special surprises” are being planned with the hope of enticing first-time visitors and welcoming back old friends, said Director Gregg Dancho, adding that the region’s mild winter and early spring already have been a boon to the zoo, resulting in “record-breaking numbers of visitors.”
Dancho said every Monday through Friday during the celebration will have a theme:
On “Roll Back Mondays,” beginning May 28, reduced admission, at $9, will be offered for everyone.
Tuesdays will feature $1 carousel rides in the pavilion, home to the restored carousel horses from Bridgeport’s former Pleasure Beach Amusement Park.
Wednesday’s half-price admission is for everyone born in the 1990s (12 to 22 years of age). In order to qualify, visitors must show proof of age (driver’s license or other photo identification, passport, report card or birth certificate will do).
Thursdays are for heat-lovers. If it’s a “scorcher” (90 degrees or above), each paying adult will receive free admission for one child.
Every Friday, the 90th guest through the front gate not only receives free admission, but he/she will receive a “special gift.”
Valid through New Year’s Eve, those who come to the zoo on their birthdays will be treated with free admission (with photo identification).
(The specials do not apply to groups, zoo staff noted.)
Timed to coincide with the celebration, Dancho announced that the zoo will have two special guests on site from the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas. Visiting Bridgeport while their zoo habitat is being renovated will be an Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea) from the islands of the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles, and a Galápagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) from the Galapagos Islands. Both live long lives and are among the biggest tortoises in the world.
Dancho also noted that scores of special events are planned throughout June, July and August, including animal education programs for children, lectures and parties for adults; storytelling for those under 6; Rainforest Reptile all-ages shows; Chris Rowlands Live animal puppet shows; Teddy bear fest; and performances of “Romeo and Juliet,” July 13-15, 18-22 at 8 p.m., presented by Connecticut Free Shakespeare.
Many events are free with admission; for a schedule visit the zoo’s website.
Upcoming events include Milford Day, Saturday, June 2, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., during which all Milford residents will be admitted for $5 with identification (co-sponsored by the city of Milford). That evening, from 6 to 9 p.m., a “Wild Wine, Beer & Food Safari” will be presented as a fundraiser; tickets may be purchased in advance for $55; $60 at the gate.
Dancho said the idea for a Bridgeport zoo began to take shape in 1878 when benefactor James Beardsley donated more than 100 acres to the city — with the caveat that it remain forever as a public park. In 1884, the city commissioned the renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, known internationally for New York’s Central Park, to design the Bridgeport tract.
According to the zoo’s official history, when it opened in 1922, the then-Parks Commissioner Wesley Hayes asked Bridgeport citizens to donate animals: “18 exotic birds made their home in the park in the first year (and then) the Barnum & Bailey Circus donated some ’retirees.’ ”
One of the state’s top tourist attractions, it welcomes more than 280,000 visitors annually. This 52-acre facility features more than 300 animals representing North and South America. Highlights include an indoor Tropical Rainforest exhibit, New England Farmyard, a walk-through aviary (including a new bald eagle exhibit),“Wolf Observation Learning Facility, carousel and Victorian greenhouse. It is owned by the nonprofit Connecticut Zoological Society, with support from the city of Bridgeport and the state of Connecticut.
Beardsley Zoo is the only Connecticut zoo accredited by the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, 1875 Noble Ave., Bridgeport. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. $12, $10 for age 3-11, 62 and older. 203-394-6565; www.beardsleyzoo.org.
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