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DECATUR — Four-year-old Bryndis Osmundson came with her family to Boo at the Zoo on Saturday to play with the animals and get candy.

She didn’t dress up for the occasion, so she made one with her shadow. “Look, I’m a polar bear,” she said as she danced with her arms in the air.

For 35 years, volunteers and Scovill Zoo staff have welcomed visitors to the annual Boo at the Zoo during the October weekends.

“It is good for the community, having a fun, family trick-or-treat area,” said Ken Frye, Scovill Zoo director. “It is good for the zoo. And it is kind of our last hurrah of the season.”

Bryndis’ grandmother, Kim Mathias, agreed.

“It is safe, it’s during the day and she gets to see the animals,” Mathis said.

While some children choose to attend Boo at the Zoo in their Halloween costumes, others choose to wait until that special holiday to break them out.

Justin Miller, 6, is  saving his Ghostbuster costume for Halloween. Justin and his family traveled from Neoga to visit the zoo. “And I’m trick or treating,” he said.

His father, Jake Miller, brought the family to Decatur because they enjoy the zoo. “It’s a nice little zoo here,” Miller said. “It’s a little chilly though.”

The recent dip in temperatures required many of the animals to head indoors sooner than usual. In the past, the sloths, tortoise and a few birds would be outdoors as late as November, but now will remain inside. “The ones that are a little more temperature dependent had to go in,” Frye said.

Zoo visitors still will be able to watch and talk to the camels, goats, red panda and others.

“The wolves love this time of year,” Frye said. “And they like to watch the people go by.”

Although the children get to watch the animals, they are also at the zoo for the candy and other goodies. Ten treat stations are located throughout the zoo. Along with the traditional candy, kids are allowed to get healthier treats, small toys and stuffed animals. The first 200 visitors each night also get a Del’s caramel apple.

Other activities include rides on the Fright Night Express and the Endangered Species Carousel. “After 6:30, the train ride becomes a scary train ride,” Frye said. “It is a little spookier at night.”

Robert Pinkston is one of the conductors for the Fright Night Express. He explains to the riders some of the scary things to watch out for while the train is travels its route. 

“We have a lot of little creatures running around down there," he said.

“They jump out from the bushes or the tunnels to startle the kids on the train,” said conductor Dick Swan. “Usually in a ghoulish costume.”

According to Frye, funds raised during Boo at the Zoo help to pay for the animals' food during the winter months while the zoo is closed.

Despite the rain and cold weather, the zoo staff welcomed nearly 100 visitors during Friday’s Boo at the Zoo opening. Saturday’s weather was ideal for the annual event, with temperatures in the low 50s. Within the first hour, the zoo had beaten Friday’s numbers. “And it will pick up after that,” Frye said.

Volunteer Shawn Horve, 21, was dressed as tow truck operator. “But this is my job, too,” he said.

Horve and Mary Sunderland, 42, volunteered with Free Runners, a masonic organization, to give out candy. They enjoy watching the kids have a good time.

“It brings you back to being a kid,” Sunderland said. “Even as an adult you can have fun.”

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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR


"Together Decatur" Columnist and Food and Drink Reporter

“Together Decatur” columnist and food and drink reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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