event recap: Cleveland Zoological Society’s ZippityZooDoo

It was a picture perfect weather day on Friday, June 8th. I was being called by Mother Nature to spend an evening outside, and luckily I had plans to attend Cleveland Zoo Society‘s ZippityZooDoo. Taking place at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, this marked the 39th year of this annual event to raise money for the Zoo Society and the Zoo.

This year’s ZippityZooDoo theme was “Zoolin Rogue”, transporting Clevelanders to an evening in Paris. As I drove up to the main gate to the valet, I was amazed to see the transformation of the Zoo’s welcome areas into the center of an exciting Parisian theme.

Several tents were set up to hold 500 guests, about 50 dinner tables, a full dance floor with staging, full bars and a silent auction with some unique experiences such as an opportunity to spend an overnight at the Zoo!

In true Zoo fashion, their educational staff were stationed around the event to allow guests to learn more about the programs that take place at the Zoo and off site. Guests checked out this table that displayed the items that are sent to teachers around our region to help students learn about elephants.

Before dinner began, I chatted with long-time friend and Zoo representative Brendan as he kindly showed me around the African Elephant Crossing exhibit.

I have not been to the Zoo since this exhibit reopened in May 2011, so it was a joy to re-experience it first hand with someone so knowledgable about the space and the animals. It’s not every day you get to see one of these beauties up close and personal:

After strolling the grounds and checking out the silent auction items, it was time for the five course Parisian dinner to begin. Catered by ARAMARK, I was looking forward to seeing what type of plated dinner the food service provider would treat guests to that evening. The “first course” consisted of the passed appetizer options, which included tuna tartar wonton crisp, vegetable ratatouille cup, duck prosciutto fava bean pistou crostini, mushroom ragout bruschetta and this lavender vichyssoise:

The second course featured a salad of spinach greens, tarragon marinated tomato cucumber salad and champagne vinaigrette:

Our third course was a smoked salmon caviar, sea salt, crostini and dill crème fraiche:

To cleanse our palates, a lovely blood orange sorbet:

Our main course – and in my eyes the star of the evening – was a steak au poivre with a peppercorn mélange cognac glaze, served with Chive lemon oil asparagus and a Saffron risotto gruyere cheese croquette:

That portion of beef was something like they would have fed to the lions – I didn’t even make it through half! The peppercorns gave it a wonderful bite. For dessert, a gourmet cheese plate:

…featuring a truffle from Lilly Homemade Chocolates. This was the perfect end to the meal, especially after that hearty steak. I highly enjoyed chatting with my table mates – including the team from Clue Into Cleveland, and some other lovely Clevelanders.

After dinner, guests finalized their silent auction bids, got their photo taken by the team at Rock The House and enjoyed the musical offerings by the Jerry Bruno Orchestra as they danced the night away between the elephants and the flamingos.

While the post dinner activities were fun, I was pretty impressed by something that happened as we ate earlier that evening. As dinner service began, Bob Hale – the MC and auctioneer for the evening – lead a live “raise the paddle” auction that raised over $50,000 for the Zoo’s programming. It was awesome to see Clevelanders step up to donate such generous amounts to help school children get the chance to experience the zoo first hand. All in, ZippityZooDoo raised $288,000 for the organization! What a success!

Here’s to the entire staff at the Cleveland Zoological Society and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo for throwing an absolutely lovely event. Congrats on another successful evening! Visit the PIP Facebook page to see all my photos from this year’s ZippityZooDoo event.

Want to keep up to date on all the special events at the Zoo? Check out their events info page: Twilight at the Zoo tickets are already on sale!

Disclosure: I was provided a media pass to the ZippityZooDoo event. As always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

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