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Magician, clown to entertain at Nex-Tech Zoo Fest
Benz hired as new zoo curator
zoo bcc donation
Barton Community College Foundation Director Darnell Holopirek, left, and Barton Vice President Dr. Penny Quinn present a $1,000 check to Great Bend Zoo Director Scott Gregory, Monday. It paid for the transportation of two new baby cougars to the zoo. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Travis Wizardry and Bumpy the Clown will entertain at Nex-Tech Zoo Fest, going on from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday at Brit Spaugh Zoo.
Lunch is available for $3 for the first 700 people, with all proceeds going to the zoo. Nex-Tech will donate another $3 for each person who attends the free event, up to $1,500.
“Zoo Fest is one of the biggest events in zoo history, just short of Zoo Boo,” Zoo Director Scott Gregory said. “Unfortunately, this will be the last Zoo Fest, but our relationship with Nex-Tech will continue and we hope to bring some ‘smaller scale’ events to the zoo in the future.”
One of the bigger events coming on behalf of the zoo is the Jack Hanna program in October. Tickets will be available for purchase during Zoo Fest. Tickets went on sale to Great Bend Zoological Society members on June 1.
Other features of Zoo Fest include Nex-Tech Express train rides, face painting and tattoos, a cupcake walk and cookie decorating, zoo scavenger hunt and over $1,000 in prizes from local merchants.

• Nicole Benz hired as curator

Nicole Benz joined the staff in May as zoo curator. She moved here from Dunn Center, N.D., but before that she spent six years working at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Fla. Benz attended Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo in Gainsville, Fla., where she was in the zoo animal technology program. Gregory was a student there at the same time, and he informed her of the opening in Great Bend.
“I really like the community,” she said. People have been welcoming and the zoo is “awesome.”
“Nicole will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the animal department including decision making involving animal husbandry, diets, veterinary care, quarantine procedures, enrichment activities, animal transportation and research projects,” Gregory said. “As a previous employee of the Disney Company she will bring her vast knowledge and work ethic to a much needed time in the Great Bend-Brit Spaugh Zoo’s history as we continue our goal for AZA Accreditation.”
• Support from BCC

Earlier this week, Gregory accepted a $1,000 donation to the Zoo Society from Barton Community College employees. It helped pay for the transportation of two baby cougars to the zoo.
The money was donated by Barton employees in the late ’90s as a fund to pay for food for the zoo’s old cougar, Bart. After that cougar passed away, the Barton Foundation held the funds. When board members were notified that there would be new cougars coming to the zoo, they decided to use the remaining money to pay for their transport.
The cats arrived in May, but are not available for viewing at this time. The enclosure still has to be prepared and the animals have to be cleared by a veterinarian.
The rights to name the new cougars will be auctioned off at the Barton Foundation’s Big Benefit Auction on Saturday, Aug. 23 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Great Bend.