Boo at Zoo weaves spooky magical experience
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For the past two years when spooky season rolls around, we gather up the family — I’m talking anyone in our circle who wants to join — and venture out to Boo at the Zoo.
This is one of my all-time favourite annual traditions, and the children love it, too.
It’s not exactly cheap at $16 a person, but it’s a really good bang for your buck because it’s usually a fun night out for everyone, and everything except food and drinks is included in the price. There’s no extra fee for the midway rides or tented circus-type shows. There are several volunteers throughout the Assiniboine Park Zoo, and people dressed in costume, engaging with the kids.
This year, my sister invited our family and a gaggle of my niece’s costumed friends, mostly 10- and 11-year-olds, to Boo at the Zoo as part of a birthday celebration.
Right after school we headed over to her place for a quick bite of pizza and cake after a hurried rendition of Happy Birthday. She handed out glowstick necklaces and mini-gloves before we were off to the zoo.
It was a little bit of chaos trying to stay in one group. The kids, after all had different ideas of what they wanted to do that night. I, and probably every other adult, spent much of the evening counting heads making sure we hadn’t lost a kid in the shuffle.
“One, two, three, four… Hey, get over here… five, six, seven… Stay with the group!”
You always forget about the constant and continuous cycle of counting when you’re about to head out with a flock of children.
“One, two, three, four… Wait, where’s so-and-so… five, six…”
While we were walking though a section of the zoo that was set up like a graveyard with fake tombstones and eerie lighting that we happened upon a costumed man who was swarmed by children.
The character (called Abraham) spoke like a true thespian — dressed in Victorian-era clothing, a white wig, and horns curling out of the top of his head. He was incredible, and delivered a continual performance of hilarious snark that captivated the children throughout the evening.
Encircled with shouting young people vying for his attention, Abraham never broke character. Just by being there he created a bit of Halloween magic for his delighted audience. The kids chased him around that part of the zoo, and parents hauled after them.
They were so fast, and I was not.
We were finally able to convince my seven-year-old and a couple of the other birthday party kids to join the larger group and continue onto other attractions at the zoo, taking it on at our own pace.
As we wandered around, my daughter kept saying she needed to find the “ringmaster.” I had no idea what she was talking about, but assumed she was referencing a movie or video game. It only clicked when we came up to a circus tent and met a men dressed as an actual ringmaster at the door.
It turned out, earlier in the night Abraham had mentioned something about the ringmaster and my daughter made it her mission to find him. What a serendipitous coincidence. The larger group we were with took in some acrobatics in the circus tent, and my daughter and some of the other birthday kids convinced the ringmaster to join them in finding Abraham, just a few feet away in the graveyard set up.
Off we were, running again with me huffing and puffing behind these speedy children and a circus ringmaster, trying to keep up and keep count all at the same time. The group spent more time engaging with, and chasing behind the snarky thespian and found even more costumed characters as they trekked through the zoo. It was immersive, and funny, and a night that all of us thoroughly enjoyed.
A huge shout-out to Assiniboine Park Zoo for making a little bit of spooky magic this Halloween season, and to the characters, like Abraham and the ringmaster, who made the fun night even better.
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project
Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud member of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.
Updated on Monday, October 17, 2022 8:03 AM CDT: CHanges time reference in lede paragraph