Today, July 4, will have thousands of Orleanians enjoying a holiday with many of the celebrations scheduled for outdoors. But before going forth on the Fourth, scores filled a pair of park areas to revel, most with their families, at dusk.

They All Asked for Zoo!

ZOObilation was the draw for thousands when the Audubon Nature Institute held a member-appreciation party at the Audubon Zoo with “you” as the guest of honor. For the collective “you,” meaning the members, membership cards and valid IDs were presented for the free admission and lawn chairs and blankets were welcome. But it was no, no to coolers, ice chests or outside food and beverages.

“Come discover how wild life can be at Audubon Zoo” was a come-on stated in bold on the invitation that indicated 4:30-7:30 pm as the time slot. More attractions included keeper chats, animal feedings and exhibit open houses, as well as live music, activities for all ages, the carousel, simulator and Swamp Train Rides, and for a fee, Cool Zoo/Gator Run and Dinosaur Adventure. Special discounts occurred for concessions and for purchases at Marketplace Gift Shop. In front of the huge shop, author Ryan Murphy signed his popular book “What the Sleepy Animals Do at the Audubon Zoo.”

The in-attendance ages ran the gamut; great-grandparents strolled about with their little ones and families flocked to the furry fun. Mel Fourmaux, a grandfather of 12 and a great-grandfather of two, commented, “We always come to ZOObilation.”

Strolling as a twosome were Dr. Harold and Paula Erath, who turned an attentive ear to the playing of “In the Still of the Night” in the near distance by The Topcats on Capital One Stage. He recalled the song from his days as a teenager. Paula was amazed at “how many people here are Zoo members.” Shortly afterward, they were parents of the groom when son Daniel, the above photographer, wed Mariella Gastanaduy, daughter of Dr. Arturo and Martha Gastanaduy. Guests danced for hours at the reception in the Elms Mansion.

Moving on into the crowd of about 4,000 was a family from Houma, including two girls and a baby. Said Jackie Naquin, “We really like all the feeding activities and being around the people and animals.” She added that they had pets: three hermit crabs. William McIntyre was with his youngsters, as was Samantha Shubert with her relatives. In the background, Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” made sure everyone was just that.

Audubon Park neighbors Andy and Cathy Burka were part of many three-generational sets. They were joined by daughter and son-in-law Aden and Dan Wright and their little ones, Britton and Lyla Wright.

Joye Wilson, the mother of participating youngsters, said they usually attend ZOObilation. They like the atmosphere.

Around the zoo, folks were seated comfortably by the Elephant Fountain near the entrance; parents pulled kids in Radio Flyer wagons; and life-jacketed tykes gamboled in the Cool Zoo, a wild and wet splash park, which has Gator Run as its new lazy river attraction. Sunglasses and hats were ubiquitous. So were smiles.

Additional excitement was produced by magic shows at Shell’s Wildlife on Stage, appearances by entomologists from Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, and representatives of NOLA Motorsports and community outreach from the FBI.

Diana O’Campo monitored kids Skyelar, Emmalyn and Glenn, while friend Jamie Henry made rounds with little daughter Emma. This was their first time at ZOObilation. Said Diana, “We thought it would be fun for the kids.” Not far away, Kai and Maria Chin were on the train with daughter Amelia. Almost everyone was taking photos.

Painted faces compliments of Art from the Heart were sported by Rashad and Ronald Mott, who respectively channeled Spiderman and a tiger. Smiling nearby was mom Javonna Mott.

Thousands more reveled in the outdoors, the animals (with among others, a snake that could be petted) and the various rides. As a consensus, a fab-Zoo-lous time!

n Square Roots

Lafayette Square across from Gallier Hall has been abuzz with mid-week activity during the recent YLC Wednesday at the Square concert series given by the Young Leadership Council, “a non-profit, nonpartisan civic organization created to develop leadership through community projects.” Volunteer-oriented, “YLC recruits and retains young professionals to New Orleans.” From babes in arms to the senior set, folks gathered at the square for the last 2015 concert, a show with Big Sam’s Funky Nation and Amanda Shaw.

The popular series, the largest fundraiser for YLC, uses the money raised for the council’s 16 community service projects and leadership development initiatives in the New Orleans region. Sponsorship for the 12-weeks-long series came from the New Orleans Pelicans (title sponsor), Abita Brewing Company, Republic National Distributing Company, the Downtown Development District, and Lafayette Square Conservancy.

Cajun fiddler and singer Amanda Shaw, who sported a short, sparkly black dress, was the opening act, performing on a stage that backed up to St. Charles Street, across from Gallier Hall. Hosts of people gazed at the Boston-born Amanda from their blankets on the ground, fold-up chairs, or conversational groups as they moseyed over to the drink and food stands.

Commented Allison Fuhrman and Ashley Sterbcow, who are students and working, “We come as often (to YLC Wednesday at the Square) as we can.” They added how much they liked the “environment and good vibes.” Similar comments were made by Ashley and Brennan Fournerat — joined by baby Brennan II and 3-year-old Juliette — who said, “You can’t beat the environment, the atmosphere, the music, and the people. We can’t think of a better spot after work.”

Kevin and Ashley Moran with little daughter Quinn, who attend almost every week, commented “It’s a nice chance to get out and hear some free music. And, it’s family friendly.” Nearby were a threesome in Adrienne Ackert, Lashanda Battley and Elizabeth Lineberger, who made this after-work fun. They liked being outside and people watching, as did artist Jane Brewster, whose watercolors were being sold under a tent. Quite a few other vendors were so ensconced, such as Rebecca Bordelon of Valois Designs. Other tents were those of the Lafayette Square Conservancy and the Saints and Pelicans.

“It’s a first time for us to come here,” said Lisa Baudet and Ursula Randle. They were comfortably seated at the edge of the square, where they could take in the whole square-scape, along with its many sights and sounds.