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Boo at the Zoo offers more thrills than chills


WATERTOWN — Decked as the Grim Reaper and holding a bowl of candy, John T. Wright offered his approval to a father dressed as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man trick-or-treating with his son.

“It’s really great to see a lot of parents dress up with their kids and experience Halloween, as well,” said the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park executive director.

This is the second year that Boo at the Zoo, a north country staple in the days leading up to Halloween, is offering activities besides the trick-or-treating. Such activities include antler ring toss, duck pond, bean bag tossing and bowling. At the ticket center, little black boxes allegedly filled with “cockroaches,” “vampire teeth,” “tongues,” “spiders” and other icky things were available for brave souls to reach in and feel. A DJ also had set up a station, playing Halloween jams like “Ghostbusters” and “I Put a Spell on You.”

There was some concern over forecasted snow, but Mr. Wright said that was why the zoo staff condensed the trick-or-treating path and activities area.

“If people do come in inclement weather, they won’t be exposed for too long. So its really, really great that the kids can come and be here for about an hour” even if it snows, he said.

Despite chilling wind and rain, the zoo had a fair turnout of children and adults for the event’s first day.

Paxton D. Barefield, 3, had no problem walking around in his Captain America costume.

“It sounded super cute,” said Paxton’s mother, Noel. “We’re new here and this is the first time we’ve gone to the Boo at the Zoo. We loved it ... The weather could have been nice, but it’s alright.”

“I go trick-or-treating, dance,” said Paxton, adding his favorite zoo animal is the “mountain tiger.”

Joshua W., 9, and Victoria L. Raymond, 12, attended the event even though they were not in costume.

“We didn’t want to wear them because we didn’t want to get them dirty,” said Joshua, who intended to be a knight.

“We’re here for trick-or-treating and we wanted to see the animals,” added Victoria, who will sport a masquerade girl costume on Halloween. Her favorite animal is the wolf.

“It’s cold but fun, because we get to see the animals around here, because we don’t get to see them much,” confessed Joshua.

Similarly, Aleigha N. Booker, 2, and her sister, Kemyha J., 4, were fascinated with the animals. While studying a mountain lion, Kemyha was thrilled to see its head move. She especially enjoyed the variety of birds.

New this year, said Mr. Wright, is a special showing of “Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest!” The zoo partnered with PBS to provide the film free of charge. It will be showing both days at the zoo starting at 11 a.m. in the education classroom.

For trick-or-treaters, stops included the “Spooky Cemetery,” “Pirate Cave,” the “Vortex,” “Halloween Dance,” “Farm Yard” and “Haunted Cave,” in addition to numerous animal exhibits. Mr. Wright said the zoo hopes to expand its programming next year, with support from sponsors, to provide more “themed” spots.

“It’s an event we’re hoping to grow, try to involve more organizations ... we’re just slowly growing it so we can eventually add another theme,” he said.

Boo at the Zoo, 1 Thompson Park, is sponsored by the Black River Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club and geared toward children 12 years old and younger. The event will run again today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost for zoo members is free for adults and $2 per child. For nonmembers, it’s $8 adults, $6 children. For military the cost is $7 adults, $5 children and free to children under the age of three. For more information visit

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