Edmonton Valley Zoo ready for Halloween fun

By Christina Zoernig

EDMONTON – The Valley Zoo is getting its animals and staff ready for its annual Halloween events on Oct. 15 and Oct. 16.

As Halloween draws near, the city is buzzing with excitement as many individuals are beginning to pick out costumes, stock up on candy and make plans.

For Jasmine Hestad, special events co-ordinator for the Edmonton Valley Zoo and John Janzen Nature Centre, this is a chance to show the public what the zoo and its staff have to offer the community this Halloween season.

“A lot of other zoos do Halloween events and they’re really geared towards Halloween animals,” Hestad said.  “So it’s a really good [fit] to have a Halloween event.”

vz asian elephant - lucy01
Lucy, the zoo’s 36-year-old Asian elephant, will be taking part in the festivities with a pumpkin stomp. Photo supplied by Edmonton Valley Zoo.

Howl-O-Ween, which is geared towards older children between eight to 12 years of age, will take place on Oct. 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Boo! at the Zoo is adapted for younger children, but all ages are welcome.  The event will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m on Oct. 15.

Boo! at the Zoo and Howl-O-Ween are collaborative projects with the University of Alberta’s UNICEF student group that focus on bringing children closer to the animals, broadening their knowledge with educational activities and enjoying some spooky entertainment.

For UNICEF, this is an opportunity to teach younger generations that come to the events about other children who are not as fortunate as they are.

“Basically the whole concept of doing these events at the zoo is so that we can talk to kids about other kids,” said Natalie Pon, president of the University of Alberta’s UNICEF student group.

“It’s a learning aspect, but it’s also an awareness campaign where we are informing each generation about global issues and how they can help.”

The student group, which represents UNICEF Canada, was originally approached by the city of Edmonton to do Boo! at the Zoo at the Valley Zoo and Spooktacular at Fort Edmonton Park. After the huge success of both events, they approached the zoo to take part in the two upcoming events and help spread the message that even a little bit of help can make a difference.

“I think that a lot of what you learn in school is not kind of like global awareness on these issues,” Pon said.  “I think when you are learning about these kinds of things at a young age, it shapes how you are growing up.”

The events require large amounts of preparation on the zoo’s part in order for them to run smoothly in mid-October. Last year, Boo! at the Zoo attracted about 1,800 people, while about 700 people attended Howl-O-Ween.  Those numbers are expected to increase this year.

“It’s a big team effort here at the zoo to make the Halloween events run smoothly,” Hestad said.

With the input of educational staff, zoo-keeping staff and public interpretation staff, Hestad has to make sure the animals are ready for the events. The zoo has also made provisions for more staff to be available to bring out animals for visitors to see in person, including animals that might not be as intimidating as they seem.

The Edmonton Reptile and Amphibian Society will be at both events to educate children with their own personal exhibit of critters, while Luke and Tess Pretty will be playing music to accompany the zoo’s activities.

Activities for Boo! at the Zoo include:

  • “Screamin’ Streamers” Halloween crafts
  • Pumpkin Patch prize
  • Lucy, the zoo’s 36-year-old Asian elephant, will be taking part in the pumpkin stomp.
  • The Witch’s Den where you can touch witch’s hair, eyes and toes.
  • The Adventure Bus, where numerous activities and a zip line will be on the stationary vehicle.
  • Trick-or-treating

Activities for Howl-O-Ween include:

  • Lucy painting pumpkins
  • Fire dancers and jugglers
  • Wolf demonstrations
  • Hot chocolate and hot dogs

Additional information can be found on the Valley Zoo’s website.

Boo! at the Zoo and Howl-O-Ween are just two of the many Halloween events going on in West Edmonton this month.