A few minutes shy of 11 a.m., a line of parents patiently wait at the admissions gate of the Jackson Zoo with their children in tow. The morning starts out humid, but cool for a July weekend in Mississippi thanks to overcast clouds, as families pour in from the main entrance and trek down the curved walkway, leading them straight to a circle of tented stations ready with smiling volunteers and large tubs of Blue Bell Ice Cream.
The Jackson Zoo, a staple in the West Jackson community for over a century, revamped a 25-year tradition, “The Blue Bell Ice Cream Social with the City with Soul,” on Saturday, July 16, 2022. The event honored Mississippi’s military and first responders with a fundraiser to support the Jackson Zoo’s “reZOOvenation,” including generous donations from Blue Bell and Visit Jackson. All funds raised will go toward animal acquisitions and future exhibits.
“We are really excited to be able to bring this kind of event back to the Jackson Zoo’s annual schedule,” City of Jackson Parks and Recreation Director Ison B. Harris Jr. said in a press release prior to the event. “We are always expanding on the number of quality opportunities for families to get out and enjoy themselves and their city. Not only is this event fun, but it also allows people to see what we’ve accomplished, giving them a chance to support us as we continue moving forward.”
Available Blue Bell flavors were Homemade Vanilla, Cookies N’Cream, Birthday Cake, Happy Tracks, Dutch Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Rocky Road, Triple Chocolate and Orange Sherbet. Volunteers—who included members of the U.S. Armed Forces, Mississippi police and fire departments, and various media organizations including the Mississippi Free Press, among others—also served cotton candy and watermelon slices.
The zoo offered animal encounters from the JZKeepers, exhibitions from Crake’s Academy of Kung Fu and Boxer’s Rebellion, performances by Inky the Clown, face-painting from SnapHappy Face Painting, inflatable bounce houses, a water slide, a splash pad, and more.
Food trucks and other vendors also parked on-site to sell their items to attendees.
The Jackson Zoo set a goal for 500 guests, but Jacksonians and other visitors exceeded those expectations, with approximately 950 people purchasing tickets to enter the zoo that day—amounting to around $3,500 in raised earnings for the animal-exhibit fund.
In 2019, the Jackson Zoo (2918 W. Capitol St., Jackson) temporarily closed to the public as management transitioned to the City of Jackson Parks and Recreation Department. Adapting to outdoor spaces, the zoo opened to the public for limited hours and capacity on Saturdays and Sundays under COVID-19 safety protocols. Zoo hours have since expanded to Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information on The Jackson Zoo, visit jacksonzoo.org.
Photo Gallery: Blue Bell Ice Cream Social