Trick or treat! Get ready for Zoo Boo on Oct. 26 at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo. This fun free event runs from 5:30-8 p.m. Anyone can come, but if you shell out $25 for a VIP pass, you and four of your friends can go to the front of the line. The really, really, long line. Community Coordinator Christina Hayes said 3,000 people come through the gate at this popular event.
In previous years, people have waited in line with their children for more than an hour for the chance to walk through the zoo in costume and see the spooky displays manned by volunteers. They get a lot of candy along the way. It’s a safe alternative to Halloween – or a prelude to the holiday if you also visit neighborhood houses on Oct. 31.
We’ve heard various reasons why the city-sponsored event needs a fundraiser. The promo poster says proceeds benefit the zoo. (Great Bend is one of the few remaining cities to offer a free-admission zoo, by the way.) Hayes told the Great Bend Tribune that Zoo Boo is “a very expensive event for the city,” which allocated $8,000 for it in this year’s budget but next year the allocation will be cut to $6,000. Sponsors pay to help promote the event and help cover some of the cost of the candy, but the City is left paying overtime and other costs. The VIP Pass fundraiser has been described as an attempt to make sure the event remains free.
It does no good to compare our community event – and Zoo Boo is a community event – to something like Wichita’s “Boo at the Zoo,” which charges adults $15.70 admission and kids 3-11 years old $11.70. Let someone charge admission for a really cool commercial haunted house but don’t let children stand in line on what may be a cold evening and watch others who can afford the status pass cut in front of them at a community event.
What’s next? The homeowners on Broadway could form a coalition and sell tickets on Halloween. No ticket, no candy until 8 p.m. if they have any left. If they run out, they turn out the lights; too bad if you can’t pay.
Halloween may be one of Great Bend’s favorite holidays, judging by participation. That’s why we applaud the city for sponsoring Zoo Boo, Hayes for her hours of work before and after the event, and the Great Bend Public Library and Kiwanis Club for offering a free costume exchange earlier in the month.
But let’s reconsider selling VIP passes in the future. If funds are needed to keep it going (or if we want to raise money for the zoo), maybe someone could sell special bags or glow necklaces, or run a dunk tank. If a family wants to get in early, maybe they could consider working at Zoo Boo next year.