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Cancellation of Zoo Boo troubling
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To the editor,

Do you remember the movie “Grumpy Old Men” starring the late Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau? I was 40 the year it was released in 1993 which now makes me officially a “grumpy old man.” Change is inevitable, however, it appears one is coming and I don’t like it!

Zoo Boo, an established tradition for safe trick or treating at Great Bend’s Brit Spaugh Zoo is ending, if the current City Administrator has his way. Although tens of thousands of kids, parents, and grandparents have attended the annual Halloween activity dating back over 30 years the powers that be have determined it’s not worth the time, effort, and money that the City of Great Bend kicks in to help pay for those treats. This kid-safe event was initiated originally by Central Kansas Medical Center. Back then tunnels under Broadway Street from the convent to the former hospital were used as a spooky pathway. As the number of trick or treaters grew a new venue had to be found. Thus Zoo Boo was born.

Mark Nichols (former manager of KSNC TV), Mark Mingenback (formerly with CKMC) and I (former manager of Eagle Radio’s KHOK) worked together with the City and Brit Spaugh Zoo to keep a good thing going. The Zoo Director and staff were on board and with a tremendous group of business partners we were able to promote Zoo Boo and provide cash for candy and treats. If memory serves me correctly the City matched what we contributed which was thousands of dollars each year. That model of pulling off a huge safe event has continued successfully for over three decades. If you were a kid back then, you probably attended. If you’re a parent, you may have taken your kids. I’m a grandpa and we have four great grandchildren in Larned who are looking forward to Zoo Boo 2020.

Zoo Boo is all about the kids! These children come from Hoisington, Claflin, Ellinwood, and beyond. That’s why sponsors stepped up to the plat even when a past city administrator pulled the plug for “financial reasons.” When that happened the Tribune ran a story with a headline that was something like ”City Cancels Zoo Boo.” Don’t take that to the bank but it was close. 

What transpired: One of our main business partners and sponsors was First National Bank. The late Mike Waltz was the bank’s president. Mike sat down with Glenna Achatz (formerly with KSNC) and me. He challenged our competitive media to keep Zoo Boo going. Mike’s words, ”You guys know how to make this happen. If the city won’t play, First National will pay.” He got out the checkbook right there. We asked him not to write the check yet. We needed the Zoo’s permission and cooperation to “make it happen.” Fortunately, they agreed and this safe and fun event for kids and families continued.

As the late Paul Harvey said “Now you know the rest of the story.” My opinion: There is value in tradition, especially in these crazy times that both adults and kids don’t understand. I hope this letter will prompt some of you to help change one person’s mind. 

Even a former Great Bend City Administrator eventually came around although he admitted he never personally attended Zoo Boo. 

Zoo Boo is about kids! You can make it happen. Pick up the phone or drop a line to the City of Great Bend. Let your opinion be heard. It’s up to you.

Rick Nulton