There's plenty to watch for at the Cincinnati Zoo's 2016 Zoofari event

There's plenty to watch for at the Cincinnati Zoo's 2016 Zoofari event
Posted at 12:00 PM, Sep 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-16 13:29:50-04

CINCINNATI -- Looking to get wild this weekend? The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens will host Zoofari 2016: A Botanical Dream. The 34th annual fundraiser takes place from 6:30 p.m. to midnight Friday, Sep. 16. The gala features drinks, dinner, live music and close encounters with some engaging zoo residents. 

So what can visitors expect at this year's event? Here are 9 things to look for at Zoofari 2016.

1. Spectacular Venue: The zoo's designers have been known to project their exotic themes at Zoofari. This year they'll bring their lush backdrop of botanical splendor into the spotlight to reflect habitats from around the globe.

This year, Zoofari designers will illuminate the botanical gardens of the zoo. (Provided/Cincinnati Zoo)

"We’re the greenest zoo in America, so it’s fitting to give a nod to our sustainability efforts as well as highlight our gorgeous gardens,” said Thane Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo director. “Our horticulture director has been pushing for years to put 'Botanical Garden' before 'Zoo' in our name. We’re not going to do that, but this year’s Zoofari theme should make him happy.”

You may see a boa constrictor serving as a fashion statement. (Provided/Cincinnati Zoo)

2. Wild Wear: Guests get to release their wild side when it comes to wardrobe. To reflect this year's theme, floral and earthy prints are encouraged, but just a reminder to fashionistas: at Zoofari, animal prints are always in.

Guests sampling a variety of foods the 2015 Zoofari. (Provided/Cincinnati Zoo)

3. Culinary Cornucopia: Vegetarians and carnivores alike will find more than their share of choices when 50-plus local restaurant serve up their tastiest version of "dinner by the bite." This year's fare includes outdoor favorites off the grill as well as Asian, French, Italian, fresh seafood, pub food, ice cream and cupcakes.

4. Entertainment: Zoofari offers up a variety of music from classical string quartets to this year's headliner, the Endless Summer Band. Guest are encouraged to kick up their heels on the dance floor. Slippers were provided by Lexus last year for tired feet.

High-energy fun as guests dance the night away at Zoofari 2015. (Provided/Cincinnati Zoo)

5. Animal Encounters: The zoo’s residents enjoy a party just as much as their human counterparts. As always, some furry, feathered and scaly friends will be on hand to get up close and personal with guests.

What animal is always ready to attend a formal affair? A penguin, of course. (Provided/Cincinnati Zoo)

6. Celebrities: Besides the zoo’s famous residents themselves, Zoofari brings in a bevy of local celebrities, corporate and community leaders to support the event. Occasionally, a Bengal tiger of the human variety makes an appearance.

Cincinnati Bengal head coach Marvin Lewis shares a laugh at last year's event. (Provided/Cincinnati Zoo)

7. Silent Auction: There’s always an interesting array of items up for bid, with some reflecting the exotic zoo theme and others just for fun. Some featured items up for grabs this year include:

  • Hippo Kiss -- a one-of-a-kind painting, created by Cincinnati’s own Henry the Hippo.
  • Tower Vertical Home Garden -- a Tower Garden complete with growing system, light kit, dolly and more. Delivery and set-up assistance included.
  • Bengals Suite -- Two tickets to the Nov. 20 game -- Bengals vs. Buffalo Bills -- in the Toyota Suite at Paul Brown Stadium. Food, drink and parking pass included.

    Donated items this year range in estimated value from a few $250 to over $4,000. (Provided/Cincinnati Zoo)

  • Captiva Island Get-Away -- Enjoy a stay in a beautiful vacation home on Captiva Island, just 200 feet from the beach. Vacation home sleeps 12.
  • Black Belt Club Membership -- Black Belt Club membership for the whole family courtesy of Park’s TaeKwonDo Training & Fitness. TaeKwonDo and MMA Fitness classes for up to four people.

8. Late Night Ticket: For nocturnal humans who prefer to wait until the sun goes down to go out, Zoofari offers a late-night, discounted ticket for just the "party" from 9:30 p.m. to midnight. Late-arriving guests can still enjoy a variety of food and open bar while dancing under the stars.

Food trucks serve hungry guests late into the evening. (Provided/Cincinnati Zoo)

9. What will Thane wear? In the past, the zoo director's been known to don the classic to the eclectic -- what will he choose this year?

Zoo director Thane Maynard and wife Kathleen go for classic attire at the 2015 event. (Provided/Cincinnati Zoo)