Hi friends! If you've been following me on Instagram, you know my family has been visiting the Indianapolis Zoo about twice a week this summer. As far as our toddler is concerned, it's the most magical place on earth, and we love seeing how excited he gets every time we arrive.
One of the first things you notice when you walk into the zoo is a large outdoor structure with rusted metal columns, soaring wood beams, and glowing glass skylights. This is the Bicentennial Pavilion, a brand new presentation and event space.
I love the unique combination of natural textures and modern lines (that's totally my aesthetic for decorating our house, so it was cool to see how an architect used it on a grand scale like this). It's got so much potential for a wide variety of uses--from business lunches to wedding receptions--and I'm excited to see how creative couples and planners use the space. In the meantime, I was thrilled to photograph a small private showcase of the pavilion and it's possibilities.
With cocktails and appetizers by Centerplate, upbeat music by Jason at AMS Entertainment, and free caricatures and green screen photos by Kaman's Art Shoppes, this happy hour event was the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon.
I can vouch for the food--it was delicious! But my favorite part of the event was the incorporation of the zoo's main attraction: the animals. Throughout the day, zoo trainers brought over animals for little "chats" with the guests. Even though I was shooting the event, I couldn't help but enjoy being so close to the animals. One of my favorites was Ray the Sea Lion. Ray has a pretty amazing story--he was rescued not once, but twice, by the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California. Sadly, Ray was the victim of multiple gunshot wounds and is completely blind as a result. Since he could no longer survive in the wild, he was shipped to the Indianapolis Zoo, where his trainers use a special baton to help him navigate during the Sea Lion Chat.
One presentation I didn't expect to enjoy so much was the snake chat. I don't have a snake phobia exactly, but I've never been super comfortable around them (and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that!) Still, after watching how calmly the snake and the trainer interacted and seeing lots of other people stroke it's skin, I decided to try it for myself. I was SHOCKED at how smooth and soft snakeskin is! It's not at all scaly or rough like I expected.
One animal you could conceivably take home from the zoo is the Kangal Dog. These are a (very) large livestock guardian dog originating from the Sivas province of Turkey. The zoo has two Kangal dogs serving as ambassadors for it's Cheetah Conservation Fund.
While cheetahs are a protected animal in Namibia, farmers are allowed to trap and shoot a cheetah if the animal is suspected of threatening livestock. The Cheetah Conservation Fund uses much of its money to work with farmers on protecting livestock by using Kangal dogs. The dogs intimidate predators like cheetahs which means famers won’t have to kill to protect their property and livelihoods. The zoo's Kangal Dogs are a brother and sister named Solo and Ayla. I got to meet Solo, and I have to say this photo does not adequately convey how massive he is in person!
My son's favorite animals at the zoo are the birds. He could happily feed the budgies for an hour (which is why we always buy him the unlimited wristband pass). I've become a bit of birdwatcher myself since moving to Indiana. We live near a marsh, and we see so many Blue Herons, Red Tailed Hawks, and other giant raptors I can't identify. We put out a feeder on our deck for the little finches, and we all love seeing them visit throughout the day.
But my new favorite bird is this cheeky White Cockatoo. This bird has PERSONALITY. I didn't know this, but apparently parrots are super opinionated about which humans they like--and they will let you know right away if you are not their favorite. Fortunately, it turns out I was quite impressive due to my cameras, and the cockatoo made a point of showing off for me and giving me his best side.
It sounds like Cockatoos are pretty feisty birds. In their native environment they are considered pests because they love to tear up vegetation. At the zoo, they use this instinct to shred things like phone books. Fortunately, this guy LOVES his keeper, and it was so cool to see their playful relationship.
My very favorite thing about this Cockatoo is that he's a fellow fan of Justin Timberlake. No joke, if you put on some JT, he starts dancing. So I had the DJ play "Can't Stop the Feeling" for him. Go ahead and click that link and dance along. You know you want to.
We can't close out this post without some photos of the pavilion's main attraction: the Magnificent Macaws! The zoo has three flocks of macaws: the Racers, the Pacers, and the Pit Crew. At specified times throughout the day, one flock will be released from it's aviary to fly free over the zoo to The Perch at the Pavilion. It's a pretty incredible experience!
Pretty cool, huh? Well I've got a second flight for you, and these guys are even more colorful! Plus, a few of them didn't get the memo about flying home...
All right guys, that's if for this post, but let me know if you end up visiting the zoo and the Bicentennial Pavilion. We'll be there most Saturdays with our little bird-watcher until I go back to work. :)