For one night each June at the Oglebay Good Zoo, the kids go home. The strollers roll away, the little red wagons head out, and the calls for popcorn and train rides fade into the evening sunset. After regular closing time on Saturday, June 23, a different sort of zoo guest will be arriving: the over-21 crowd.

The Oglebay Good Zoo will hold its annual Zoo Brew fundraiser this Saturday. This will be the ninth year, and the event usually sells out. VIP guests arrive at 6 p.m., and general admission begins at 7 p.m. Ticket sales will be capped at 700.

Dr. Joe Greathouse, director of the Good Zoo, looks forward to the event each year. While all attendees will enjoy a fun-filled evening, VIP guests will get a true insider zoo experience.

“For the VIP portion of the event, guests get to meet and greet some of the animal ambassadors,” Greathouse said. “They get tastings during that first hour, and they’ll have the first opportunity to bid on some of our silent auction items. They’ll get to see things like armadillos, opossums, skunks and some of the raptors.” Items in the silent auction include animal paintings and gift certificates to area businesses.

True to the event’s name, all attendees will enjoy local grub and grog. Guests will sample beer and food from local vendors including Ye Olde Alpha, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Bubbas Gourmet Burghers & Beer, Texas Roadhouse, Valley Cheese, Eat’n Park, Quaker Steak & Lube, Wilson Lodge Food & Beverage and Billy Casper Golf.

“We have a lot of brews just coming from local distributors. So, Carenbauer’s, McCann’s, North Central Brewing, Mountain State Distribution, and West Virginia Wine and Beverage Merchants. Then, brewers represented are Wheeling Brewery, Parkersburg Brewing, Morgantown Brewing Company, Big Timber, Greenbrier Valley and Mountain State Brewery.”

“I hope I spot you at the Zoo Brew,” says the snow leopard.

In between sampling beer and food, guests will enjoy live music, have the chance to walk around the zoo and ride the train. The experience may seem a little different without kids in tow, and that’s the idea.

“It’s just a unique opportunity because guests get to come out and see animals and experience the zoo, but also to have beer and have adult time,” said Greathouse.

Live entertainment will be provided by Bridges, featuring vocalists Kim Butler, Doug Pettit and Dave Pettit, who will entertain guests with classic rock hits from the Beatles, the Eagles, Van Morrison, the Zac Brown Band and more. Bill Gorby & the Musical Mercenaries also will take the stage, performing an eclectic mix rooted in folk, bluegrass and old-time country through the three-part harmonies of Bill Gorby, Buck Allemond and Jim Simpson.

With all the merriment, you might easily forget the importance of the cause. After all, you’re supporting a beloved Wheeling institution. The Good Zoo has been a constant for decades. It has saved many a parent’s sanity on long days with bored kids or out-of-town visitors. Many adults can look back fondly on the docent program and their own zoo camp experiences. More importantly, the zoo continues to educate a new generation of eager young people about conservation.

So on Saturday evening, when you leave the kids at home and head up to Zoo Brew, what exactly are you supporting?

“It supports zoo operations,” said Greathouse. “When I say it supports zoo operations, it supports things like maintenance of the zoo as well as animal care, animal welfare, veterinary care, some of our conservation programs like local hellbender conservation we do and the raptor rehabilitation. We just released a bald eagle Friday that was stuck in one of the locks here on the river. We took care of it for a week and got it back out to the wild. That’s something extra that we do that these types of events support.”

VIP guests will receive a snow leopard ornament. The Good Zoo acquired its first snow leopard in late May. He’s been on display for three weeks now. The zoo expects to acquire a female in July to join him in the exhibit. Snow leopards are an endangered big cat from Asia. Scientists estimate the population currently hovers between four and eight thousand individuals. They’re threatened by poaching. According to Greathouse, proceeds from the ornament sales go directly towards snow leopard conservation.

“I might be going out on a limb, but I think you’ll have a great time at the Zoo Brew!” says the red panda.

Along with the snow leopard exhibit, the zoo is expanding the red panda habitat. They’ve acquired more pandas for one of the largest red panda habitats in the country. In addition, the zoo is introducing an African Spurred Tortoise exhibit, an emu exhibit, and are in the process of adding a Central Chinese Goral habitat. Gorals are an endangered species of mountain goat. Only 10 zoos in the United States exhibit them.

It’s interesting to note that the Good Zoo is not large enough to be a breeding facility. Visitors may now be familiar with the cheetah exhibit. The cheetahs arrived in 2016, and they’re well past breeding age. The zoo accepts these older, endangered species to make room for new ones in zoos that are equipped for breeding. And while you won’t see a cheetah cub or snow leopard cub in Oglebay, thanks to the Good Zoo’s efforts, and your Zoo Brew ticket, you’re helping zoos across America increase the chances of survival.

That’s reason enough to support our favorite zoo, but a light-hearted evening with local drink and cuisine makes the act of giving even more enjoyable. Find a babysitter. You deserve a night off.

TICKETS:

VIP Tickets – $72.10

  • Early entrance to the Zoo Brew at 6 p.m.
  • Exclusive brews and food
  • VIP tour of the zoo’s veterinary hospital

General Admission Tickets

  • Purchase at the Door (if available) — $63.60
  • Advanced Purchase Nonmembers — $51.50
  • Designated Driver Ticket — $30.90

Good Zoo Friends, OVConnect members and Oglebay Institute members will receive $5 off advance ticket sales.

Guests must present photo ID upon arrival and must be 21 to enter. 
Must present confirmation ticket (can be printed from confirmation email or shown on phone).
Tailgating is not allowed in the Oglebay parking lots.
This event is held rain or shine.

The event is sponsored by WesBanco.

“See you later, alligator! I’m heading over to the Zoo Brew!”

• Laura Jackson Roberts is a freelance writer in Wheeling, W.Va. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University and writes about nature and the environment. Her work has recently appeared in Brain, Child Magazine, Vandaleer, Animal, Matador Network, Defenestration, The Higgs Weldon and the Erma Bombeck humor site. Laura is the Northern Panhandle representative for West Virginia Writers, a blog editor for Literary Mama Magazine and a member of Ohio Valley Writers. She recently finished her first book of humor. Laura lives in Wheeling with her husband and their sons. Visit her online at www.laurajacksonroberts.com.

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