The costume wasn’t just cute, it was sentimental. Hinds’ uncle wore the same outfit 23 years ago. He’s currently serving with the Army in Afghanistan, said Patty Hinds of Illiopolis, Alyvia’s grandma.
Krystal Hinds, her daughter Alyvia and grandma Patty attended Zoolie Ghoulie.Clowns, ladybugs, skeletons and pirates marveled at the animals Sunday and happily accepted treats from Springfield-area businesses. This is the 26th annual event. When it began in 1985, organizers wanted to give the community a safe place for trick-or-treating, but it’s become much more than that, said Talon Thornton, the zoo’s director.
“It’s something that can be passed on from one generation to the next,” Thornton said. “The people that came as kids now bring their kids.”
The event was initially held at night, but it was moved to earlier hours so young patrons wouldn’t be scared.Last year, the event expanded to two weekends to meet demand. Zoolie Ghoulie continues this weekend, 2-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $3 for trick-or-treaters and $2 for non-trick-or-treaters.Saturday’s attendance exceeded expectations, with almost 2,000 patrons attending during four hours, Thornton said. Organizers expected 1,500 people per day, said Jeremy Allen, marketing consultant for Capitol Radio Group, which has sponsored the event for more than 15 years.
“We’re helping out the zoo, and who wouldn’t want to help kids trick-or-treat,” Allen said.
Capitol Radio Group provides all the candy and costume contest prizes to limit the zoo’s expenses, Thornton said. He expects to raise $20,000 for the zoo’s operating costs. The money previously was used for building projects, but a tight budget now requires it be spent on zoo operations.
There are costume contests each night with prizes for winners, including one-year memberships to the zoo. New to this year’s Halloween event, children can ride the zoo’s train through the beautiful, forested area outside the zoo. There are also carnival games.
The Hinds trio attended Zoolie Goolie last year and loved visiting throughout the year, Patty Hinds said. The Halloween event allows them to give back to the community because it helps keep the zoo operating, she said.
“It’s really great to have places for the kids to learn things,” Hinds added.On Sunday, Alyvia Hinds attentively watched the zoo’s birds, including a great horned owl and a red-tailed hawk. However, the penguins are her favorite animals at the zoo. She even asked for two for Christmas, a baby and a daddy.
Springfield’s Dyvon and Danielle Stewart took their three kids to the zoo. Ten-year-old Jason dressed as a dead doctor, while his seven-year-old sister Dyvoncia dressed as an Army version of a Bratz doll. The youngest, three-year-old Dyvon, dressed as Bumblee Bee from Transformers.
The children’s mom even got into the fun, dressing as Chuckie. Her sister Lacy Warden, 17, also attended.
They said the family loves having the zoo close.
Children who grow up in the Springfield area have these opportunities to explore the zoo, Thornton said. When people are deciding where to live and raise their families, they’ll think about what recreational activities cities offer, and Springfield is home to great museums and gardens, Thornton said.“
All of those facilities play a huge role in the community,” he added.