Patrick and Melanie Hunt with Brad Moxley, center, the herpetology keeper at the Knoxville Zoo, and Drogo, a baby Komodo dragon. (Photo courtesy of the Knoxville Zoo.)
One of the most successful fundraisers in Knoxville has to be Zoofari, the annual dinner, dance and auction at the Knoxville Zoo. I know I complain a lot about that tired dinner/auction format, but location does matter and you can’t beat the zoo for visual interest. So, even after 27 years, Zoofari is still fun. Thanks so much, zoo friends, for not having your signature event in the overcrowded ballroom of a local country club.
“Evening of the Dragon,” was the theme this year, a salute to the zoo’s two Komodo dragons, Khaleesi and Drogo. These enigmatic creatures are natives of the islands of Indonesia, so exotic entertainment was appropriate for the evening, as you will see.
Komodo dragons, which can weigh 200 pounds and can grow to 9 feet long, are rare and in peril. Only 6,000 of them remain today in the wild. They have a keen sense of smell through the flick of their tongues, and they can track prey from more than 5 miles away. Injecting deadly bacteria with one crushing bite, a Komodo dragon can kill a full-size horse, water buffalo or even another dragon.
Khaleesi came to live at the Knoxville Zoo in 2011 and she has grown to be more than 6 feet long. The zoo’s baby Komodo, Drogo, weighs only two pounds now, but he’s growing. That’s the one folks got to see at Zoofari. (I guess it would have been difficult to haul around a 6-foot-long venomous lizard!) A new Komodo habitat called Wee Play Adventure is nearly complete and has been funded by Pilot Flying J. Thus, the cause for celebration.
Jordanna and Erik Nelson during the cocktail reception.
Rebecca and Alan Williams
Megan Venable, left, and Johnna Easter
Rachel Ford, left, and Mary Bogert
Kevin Clayton and state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey
One of the more approachable animals, as far as I’m concerned.
This turkey was so pretty and fluffy, I may never eat turkey again. Carnivore guilt.
Exotic dancers (not THAT kind!).
This ferret looks kinda mean, don’t you think?
From left, Justice Gary Wade, Sam and Ann Furrow and Sharon Pryse
From left, Tiffany and Tommy Siler, Orlando and Donna Diaz
Whitney and Jason Brown
And then, fire!
And more fire.
Cute meerkats just ignored all the shenanigans.
As did the zebra, one of my favorite zoo animals.
Eddie Mannis, left, and Michael Foltz
David and Jeanne Claire Jones
A trip to the zoo is not complete without a visit with the elephants.
From left, Bruce and Sharon Bosse, Ruth and Joe Fielden, Sharon Pryse and Patrick Roddy.
Cathy and David Campbell
At 8 p.m., we were summoned to dinner. It looked like a sellout.
Standing, from left: County Finance Director Chris Caldwell, Kelly Kimball, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, Eddie Mannis and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. Seated: Debbie and Knoxville Finance Director Jim York.
Chilled fruit and noodle salad was refreshing on a toasty evening.
Coconut curry braised bone-in beef short ribs and pan seared Chilean sea bass with miso glaze. (I always feel guilty eating meat at the zoo, so I stuck with the fish. At an aquarium, I avoid eating fish! It just seems rude.)
Tim and Amy Williams. He’s chairman of the zoo’s board of directors.
Randy and Jenny Boyd own Boyd’s Jig and Reel, one of the presenting sponsors of the event, along with The Trust Company.
From left, Brenda Wood, Jim Martin and Kay Clayton.
Pete and Cindi DeBusk
Rob and Tammy Ivey
Bill Pittman and the zoo’s Tina Rolen
Jo and Sid Blalock
Ron and Connie Hutchins
From left, Doug Tabor, Jennifer Holder, Melinda Meador and Milton McNally.
Betsy and Barret Simonis
It was an unusual and fun Saturday night. Do you have a favorite zoo animal?