August 12, 2009

LES FEST – Fun, Food, Music to benefit Zoo!

On Saturday, August 22 everyone from toddlers to seniors can be a part of LES FEST at the Alexandria Zoo! It’s the perfect opportunity to show your support while having fun and learning what’s new at the Zoo. From 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. the Zoo will be free to the public, and train rides will be only 50 cents!

LES FEST is the brainstorm of zoo volunteers, friends and zoo staff who want to keep Les Whitt’s dream alive at the Alexandria Zoo! Whitt was Zoo Director from 1974 until his death in August 2008. Since Celebrate Les Day in September 2008, this group has been working to design an event that will benefit the Zoo and will honor their friend, zoo leader, and visionary for the zoo.

The day will begin at 8 a.m. with a 5K Run and 1M Fun Walk for all ages, and a Zoolympics Adventure Course that has been designed for kids up to 12 years of age. Registration is required for the run, walk, and Zoolympics, with early registration ending August 12. Individuals and groups are encouraged to participate and prizes will be awarded.

The event committee has worked hard to make the entire event from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. as unique as they feel Les Whitt himself was. That may be why the run/walk portion of the day will include some unconventional ways of cooling the participants as they race. It’s also why music must be a big part of the event, even the race. Cheerleaders, flag corps, and marching bands have been asked to entertain and encourage runners and walkers at the start/finish line and intervals along the route.

Family entertainment will continue until noon with cool water activities and local musicians performing at different locations on the zoo campus. Zoo staff and volunteers will be available at each performance area to share information about the animals, exhibits, and future plans for each area. Visitors can show their support for the various projects by making donations in collection jars. A variety of food and drinks will be available for sale along with souvenirs in the gift shop. Train rides will be only 50 cents per person!

The Zoo will close at 3 p.m. so that staff and volunteers can prepare for a night of hot entertainment! Gates will reopen at 5 p.m. for barbeque and shortly afterwards the stage will be filled with a phenomenal entertainment lineup. Les Whitt was a respected musician, so it is only fitting that superb Louisiana music be the evening feature! In true “Les” style, Righteous Buddha, a jazz funk trio from Baton Rouge will kick off the tunes at 5:30 p.m., followed at 7 p.m. by Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, winner of the 2003 Big Easy Entertainment Award for best rock group. Headlining is long-time New Orleans blues guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington and his band the Roadmasters, who will finish out the evening with everything from rhythm and blues to funk to soul and jazz.

Interim Zoo Director Lee Ann Whitt said that Les Fest was planned with the guests in mind. Misting and cooling fans will be in the entertainment area to provide some relief from the August heat. Tables and chairs will be provided, but guests can bring lawn chairs if they prefer. A shuttle throughout the park will be provided by ATRANS.

Tickets to the evening activities (beginning at 5 p.m.) are $15 in advance at the Zoo Office on Masonic Drive. Tickets include a barbeque chicken dinner and drink. Although tickets may be purchased at the gate for $20 the evening of the event, advance tickets are recommended. Water, soft drinks, beer, and other spirits will be available for sale along with commemorative Les Fest music shirts during the evening. No food or drinks may be brought into the zoo during the event.

It’s the zoo’s way of raising ‘fun and funds’ in hopes of continuing Les’ grand vision for the Alexandria Zoo. When Les Whitt walked into the zoo in 1974, he immediately had a plan…one that he diligently pursued the 34 years he served the City of Alexandria. Staff and volunteers feel it is important that everyone realize what Alexandria Zoo can become if the plans are carried to fruition, and how great that could be for Alexandria.

All proceeds from Les Fest will go to zoo projects including renovations of the South American area, entertainment plaza, and the playground, as well as the most requested exhibit development by zoo goers, Phase II of the African Experience. Anyone who knew Les Whitt understood that he did not put limits on his dreams. He also talked of a new “grand entrance” on Masonic Drive that would include an entry plaza, exhibit hall for traveling exhibitions, indoor event space, new education classrooms and more. To Les, the sky was the limit!

For more information about Les Fest or the Alexandria Zoo call 318.441.6810 or visit the website at

The Alexandria Zoo is owned and operated by the City of Alexandria under the Public Works Division. The Zoo’s mission is to promote the understanding and conservation of the natural world in which we live.

Source: The Alexandria Zoo, Alexandria, Louisiana