Over the past few years I have come to look forward to Zootastic's annual Teacher Appreciation Day. This year the event coincided with my oldest sister's 40th birthday. I wasn't sure our family would be able to attend. Jesse and I drove separately so I could leave early to attend my sister's traditional birthday lunch, which was an hour south of the zoo.
The zoo opened at 9 and for possibly the first time ever, we arrived on time. Jesse's brother and his kids were meeting us there a bit later. We grabbed the first wagon ride available before it became too hot and crowded. Unfortunately, we didn't think to bring any cash and forgot that animal feed was not included.
Despite a lack of food, it was still exciting to be so close to the large, beautiful animals.
The trio were apathetic, as if they are regularly face to face with exotic animals.
Jackson showed more interest, thankfully.
After the wagon ride concluded, we walked around to explore the other exhibits and catch up with family. The gibbons were especially vocal and active.
The most memorable part of the trip was interacting with the giraffes. The zoo recently constructed a raised boardwalk where you can walk right beside the giraffes and have a close-up view of their upper body.
It was very cool to pet and feed giraffes.
I was swooning over the giraffes and asked Jesse to take a picture of us. He just so happened to take the following series of photos as the giraffe began pulling my head back, eating my hair. A nearby zookeeper said the giraffe was likely attracted to my hay-colored hair.
At this point I had to leave to help pick up nieces and go to my sister's lunch. Jesse, his brother, and the kids attended an educational show. Jesse texted this picture of a joey wearing a diaper with the caption, "James thought this was funny as hell." I hate I missed the laughter caused by the various animals.
They concluded their day at Zootastic with lunch, a cookout provided free for Teacher Appreciation Day.
We all met in Gastonia that evening to continue celebrating my sister's birthday.
We tried to make sure my sister felt loved by writing down a collection of our favorite memories with her. It was a fun surprise and entertaining to hear her read what others wrote.
Though I wasn't able to stay for all the events of Zootastic, I was once again impressed with their annual event. It would cost our family nearly $70 to attend on any other day, so I am very thankful that we can take advantage of the unique animal encounters.