There was cause for celebration this weekend when the gates opened at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.


The zoo was officially marking its 100th birthday.

The occasion was noted with music, dance and a variety of activities, much of them staged just off the main path on the Great Lawn and Play Park.

If the family-friendly fun wasn’t particularly grand in the overall scheme of things, it’s because there are plans to continue the party with events throughout the year, said Yaira Osborne, coordinator of the 100-year anniversary.

Slideshow: Celebrating the Jacksonville Zoo and moms, too

The zoo also encouraged Sunday’s visitors to celebrate Mother’s Day, with an offer of brunch and a special admission discount for moms.

And you didn’t have to look very hard to get a feeling that the offer took.

It’s not unusual to see parents pushing strollers on any given weekend. But how often do you encounter Mom being pulled around in a little red wagon?

That was how Sara Hiers-Cohen exited the Play Park late in the morning, with husband Michael Cohen Sr. doing the towing and their 4-year-old son, Michael Jr., along for the ride.

It may have been only a brief ride, but the gesture of appreciation certainly caught the attention of people passing by.

Slideshow: At 100, a look at The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ most notable residents

Teresa Braddy stood with her husband, Scott, and their 15-year-old son, Brandon, as the Braddys’ 10-year-old old daughter, Cassidy, made her way up and down the inflatable, 20-foot-high “King Croc” slide on the Great Lawn.

The Braddys came to the zoo for Mother’s Day as well as for the 100th anniversary celebration.

“We’re members, and we come to the zoo a lot,” Teresa Braddy said, for the plants as well as the animals. Because of the zoo’s continued growth, “We see something different every time,” she said.

Lynda Fields and her daughter, Lindsey Baugh, 17, found themselves becoming a mother-daughter act when they were invited up on stage to sing along with the Jacksonville-based country band J Collins by frontman, Jay Collins. The band began performing about noon, and Fields and Baugh were still with them — seemingly never missing a lyric — when the set ended almost an hour and a half later. Clearly, this was a case where zoo visitors were not drawn there by the animals.

“We go to all of Jay’s shows” in Jacksonville, Baugh said afterward, which translates to about one performance a month. Collins routinely invites them to join his band on stage. Baugh has accepted three or four times, she said. Fields has joined in twice. At this point, Fields said, any nervousness they might have had is gone.

You could also find a sense of motherhood among the animals, Osborne said.

This proved to be true at the Great Apes exhibit, where Deanna, an 18-year-old mandrill, kept close watch on her most recent delivery, a male born April 22.

Visitors crowded around to get a look at Deanna as she came out of an enclosure with the baby clinging to her belly. The father, Rafiki, was close by.

A real family affair.


David Crumpler: (904) 359-4164