SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Dickerson Park Zoo will celebrate 100 years this Saturday with a carnival-like birthday bash.
A variety of vendor booths will line paths at the zoo. Guests can expect magic demonstrations, face painting, a bounce house and much more.
Additionally, kids will have the opportunity to hang out with the most famous sports mascots from the region from 10 to noon. Louie and Fetch of the Springfield Cardinals will be on hand, along with Ozarks Technical Community College’s Ozzy the Eagle, Boomer Bear from Missouri State, Kicker of Sportstown and none other than conservation legend Smokey Bear.
“Everyone is a kid at our birthday party. We are offering the child’s admission rate of $12 to all ages,” Dickerson Park Zoo Marketing Director Joey Powell told The Heartlander.
Beginning at 11 a.m, a centennial pomp and circumstance celebration kicks off with Springfield Mayor Ken McClure, presiding Commissioner of Greene County Bob Dixon, Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe, Congressman Eric Burlison and an assortment of state legislators. These special guests will share proclamations and congratulations with the zoo for its incredible milestone.
The Dickerson Park Zoo was introduced by the Springfield Park Board in 1922 at Phelps Grove Park in Springfield. By 1923 the zoo purchased land from the Jerome Dickerson Sr. estate, giving the zoo its official name. Today the Dickerson Park Zoo sits on 100 acres but features 50 more acres for future development. Powell calls it the most exotic walk in Springfield at 1.2 miles.
The zoo has been accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums for over 30 years – the highest standard of achievement, which only 240 zoos worldwide have earned.
“A lot of times when I give tours, I always tell people the animals in our care have better healthcare and diets than a lot of people in Greene County. The animals get yearly check-ups and their diets are maintained for optimal health.”
In 1975, the nonprofit group Friends of the Zoo was established to fund vital zoo projects and programs. The group also donates to conservation efforts around the world. Those interested can see all offers and join Friends of the Zoo, here.
The zoo is home to 70 free-roaming peacocks, which have been a staple at Dickerson Park Zoo for half of its lifetime. The peacocks even have their own Twitter page and are locally famous. Powell reminds guests to watch their step on the peacock-poop-packed pathways.
“There’s a lot of them, and Dickerson Park Zoo would not be the same without the peacocks walking around like they own the place.”
Powell says the zoo’s current mission is simple: see, connect and protect. The marketing director and zoo coordinators hope to connect humans with adventure, encourage discovery and inspire conservation.
“Actually come out and come face-to-face with a giraffe,” Powell says. “Put your hand out and touch a goat or donkey in the petting zoo. Once people are out here and have that physical contact and have that heart-feeling of being in that animal’s presence, then you are going to connect with it. When you see it and begin to understand, or take an education class as a kid, you are going to be more apt to protect it. That is from adults down to kids.”
During the months of August and September, the zoo will partner with the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks for the second year. Those who donate blood will receive two complimentary passes to the Dickerson Park Zoo.
Powell says this is the perfect year to join Friends of the Zoo, as members will receive a free gift for each month of their membership in 2023.
“To join on our 100th birthday is really special because it’s a feel-good thing. You know you are helping us start the next 100 years with the support of our community.”
For more information about Dickerson Park Zoo, visit its website.