The annual Ice Cream Safari at the Jackson Zoo is this Saturday! This family-fun event has been attracting ice cream-lovers and animal-lovers alike for twenty-four years. PORTICO talked with E.J. Rivers, media specialist for the Jackson Zoo, to get the inside scoop on the event this year.
How did the Ice Cream Safari get started twenty-four years ago?
Since July is National Ice Cream month, many zoos around the nation wanted to incorporate it into a fun, cool day at the zoo during traditionally hotter weather. Since zoo people are a tight network, they’ve been passing around tips and ideas to make each event in each city bigger, better and more fun.
How has it evolved since then?
Here in Jackson, the local media and celebrities that donated their time to the zoo took the original vote for best flavor of ice cream and turned it into a competition for Best Scooper. It has evolved even more over the past few years, when popular personalities decided to unapologetically “bribe” their tasters by adding sprinkles, whipped cream, sundae toppings and even candy and cookie pieces to win votes for best showmanship.
In what ways does this event affect the Jackson Zoo?
The Blue Bell Ice Cream Safari is one of the main annual fundraisers for the Jackson Zoo for the entire year. All the money received goes into the annual fund, which pays for daily operations throughout the entire year. This fund pays for animal care (food, vet services, enrichment), guest services, building and exhibit maintenance, utilities and staff needs to run the park every day of the year.
Can you say who any of the celebrity scoopers will be?
Representatives are getting ready from Jackson’s favorites from (in no particular order) WAPT 16, WDBD 40, WJTV12, WLBT 3, WJSU TV, 99 Jams, Kixie 107, Miss 103, Z106, Mississippi Public Broadcasting, The Clinton Courier, Y101, WYAB 103.9, Hallelujah 95.5, Hinds County Sheriff’s Department, Mix 98.7, 99.7 The Beat of the Capitol, Jackson Free Press, Supertalk 97.3, Miss Hospitality Jackson and Little Miss Hospitality Jackson, Bday Radio 99.1, The Jackson Showboats basketball team, Jackson Fire Department Zoo Krew #6, the Jackson Zoological Society Board of the Directors, and Mayor Lumumba of the City of Jackson! We will also have visits from Tink and the Wayfinder, Mookie from Sal & Mookies and animal encounters with the Jackson Zoo Education Ambassador staff.
Are there any flavors of ice cream that are always a big hit?
Depends on who you ask. From homemade vanilla to rocky road with cake batter and cookie dough flavors to sherbet and everything in between, there is something for everyone.