Zoofari brings fun — and big bucks! — to Zoo Knoxville

Chelly Clayton co-chaired Zoofari this year with Lucy Schaad. Doesn’t her outfit just scream, “Havana!” Chelly also is chair of the zoo’s board of directors.

Well, the folks at Zoo Knoxville sure made the most of hosting one of the first major in-person fundraisers of the season following more than a year of pandemic shutdown.

Although they made some adjustments — like breaking attendees into pods rather than having everyone under one huge tent as they usually do — the spirit of Zoofari was mostly the same. And — get this! — they raised more than $1 million!

The arrangement was a little hard on a blogger because it was impossible to capture everyone with the venue being so broken up. But, I think it’s safe to say a good time was had by all.

This year’s theme was “Havana Nights” — a tribute to the Cuban crocodile in residence at Zoo Knoxville. Some folks really got into the theme, as you will see! Funds raised from Zoofari — this year was the 34th for the event — support the zoo’s animal care, animal conservation and education programs.

As guests entered the park, Zoo Knoxville staff members introduced them to some of the residents.

Melissa and Steven Cox before they located their assigned pod.

This sweet sheep was one of my favorites. I was invited to touch its wool, which was not soft at all!

Zoo Knoxville board member Sharon Pryse, left, with Margaret and Robert Hill.

My friend Jerry Kruse, of The Pour Guys bartending service, was trying to be friendly with a pig. “Don’t get too close,” the handler warned. I guess pigs aren’t as friendly as sheep.

Scott Bird, vice president of Moxley Carmichael, found a surprisingly friendly zoo animal.

Bart Carey and Diane Carter during the cocktail hour.

Bob and Becky Paylor. Great outfits!

Here’s what the pods looked like. I think it was a pretty good plan for somewhat social distancing.

Liz and Wes Stowers were at our table in the “Zebra and Giraffe” pod.

Here’s how we knew we were in the right place!

The centerpieces were stunning.

David Gilbert and Cynthia Gibson with a plush turtle that was a gift to sponsors.

From left, Lisa Bodie, Michelle Wall, Mike Craig and Diane Carter.

From left, Jack Lacey, Pete DeBusk, John Geppi and Joe Pryse.

Jerry Bodie, left, with Anna Ford and Bruce Hartmann.

Jack and Rachel Davidson were in the pod with us where The Trust Company of Tennessee had two tables.

Snacks were set up at each pod.

Lindsay and Ross Cates. She’s also with The Trust Company.

Kirby Bell and David Collins were at a nearby pod.

Megan Banerjee, left, and Liz Sherrod.

Charley and Tanya Bible were at the KaTom table, which also was in the same pod as us.

Some more of our table-mates: Abbey and Tanner Harris. She’s deputy communications director for Knox County.

The only downside of the evening was the food. It was awkward to eat off these big plastic containers. I think the salmon and beef would have been delicious if they could have been served hot.

When the program started and was broadcast live on big screens in each pod, Dino Cartwright went out into the zoo to interview folks. Here he chats with Sharon Pryse (Love his pants!)

Soon, I received a text with this photo from my friend Mark Grayson. That let me know he was in the pod next to the red pandas! I decided to pay a visit.

Sure enough, there he was! From left, Mark Grayson, Chris Davis and Rene Yanes.

Also in that pod, from left: Susan Brown, Mark, Mary Ellen and Steve Brewington.

And more Brewingtons! From left, Sam, Jeanette, Steven and Allie.

From left, Joey Creswell, Janet Testerman and Craig Shelton.

My last stop of the evening was at the Clayton Family Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) campus where I saw Chelly and Kevin Clayton holding down the fort.

Sterling Henton (also known as “DJ Sterl the Pearl“) was at the table, too.

I passed Scott Bird and Heather Overton on the way out. What a fun time!

I will leave you with  a few seconds of Cuban dancing:



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2 Responses to Zoofari brings fun — and big bucks! — to Zoo Knoxville

  1. Bette Bryan, on June 11th, 2021 at 2:47 pm said:

    Wow!! Looks like a wonderful event! So exciting to have in-person evenings again. Congratulations to the zoo and Chelly for such a successful time!

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on June 12th, 2021 at 7:20 am said:

    Bette! Can’t wait to be at an event with you and Richard again!

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