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New CEO shakes up Lowry Park Zoo event lineup, adds member benefits

Photo courtesy of Dave Parkinson

Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is moving the popular WaZoo beer festival to spring and changing and retiring several signature fundraisers and events. It's an overhaul of programming spearheaded by the zoo's new CEO.

WaZoo BeerFest is moving from steamy summer to May to take advantage of more pleasant, dryer weather. Feast with the Beasts, a dine-around event formerly known as Zoofari, promises to offer "elevated culinary experiences," according to a zoo news release. In addition, the zoo is introducing new seasonal events to be known as Summer Sunset Celebration, Creatures of the Night and Christmas in the Wild that will be included with admission.

CEO Joe Couceiro, a former top executive with Busch Gardens and SeaWorld, took the helm of the zoo in August after working as vice president of marketing at the Chicago Zoological Society.

One of his first changes was to introduce a new "pay for a day" ticket that lets you come back all year. He also added some benefits to memberships such as bringing a guest along for free.

"In 2016, we're excited to present our most engaging lineup of events yet," Couceiro said in a statement. He stressed that the best way to take advantage of these events is through zoo membership or the new "pay for a day," ticket nicknamed the ZooperPass, to provide free and unlimited access.

Among the changes announced:

• WaZoo BeerFest, now in its 21st year, moves to May 7. This annual beer festival held always promised hundreds of tastings and often got hit with afternoon summer thunderstorms. This year's event will still be an all-inclusive tasting featuring more than 250 beers and beverages from 70 breweries worldwide, with pub fare and live entertainment. Prices were not announced, but tickets will go on sale in March.

• Feast with the Beasts is a new event that starts where Zoofari left off for the last 30 years. With more than 50 local restaurants participating, Feasts with the Beasts will continue the Zoofari tradition in November with fine food, wines, cocktails, live bands and a few "wild surprises." Prices were not announced, but tickets will go on sale in September.

• Summer Sunset Celebration, the first of the new seasonal events, has the zoo open on select evenings at sunset. Billed as a nice date night or family time, the event will include live music and roving entertainment, a beer and wine garden and a light show finale. Dates for this event were not released yet.

• Creatures of the Night is coming select nights in October. The all-ages event promises a Jack-O-Lantern display, a distinctive insect encounter and new eerie entertainment including new Halloween-themed shows, roving characters and spooky mazes. There will also be up-close animal interactions, themed dining opportunities and a trick-or-treat station. All included with admission.

• Christmas in the Wild, coming select nights in December, will have immersive light displays and lively light shows choreographed to holiday tunes, a new Santa experience, strolling entertainment, Christmas carolers and special holiday performances every night included with admission.

• The new "pay for a day" ticket, nicknamed the ZooperPass, can be purchased online or at the ticket window for $29.95 for adults or $22.95 age 3-11. The pass is valid from the date of purchase through Dec. 31. Blackout dates apply during the busy holiday and spring break weeks. The black out dates are: March 12-27; Nov. 25-27 and Dec. 26-31, 2016. lowryparkzoo.org.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn.

New CEO shakes up Lowry Park Zoo event lineup, adds member benefits 02/22/16 [Last modified: Monday, February 22, 2016 5:38pm]
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