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Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium's Summer Safari held Friday

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By Kate Guerriero
Monday, Aug. 1, 2011
 

"You can't see this at Kennywood," was the sort of sentiment shared in unison during Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium 's Summer Safari on Friday, famous last words first uttered by vice prez Frank Cartieri that would resonate for the rest of the evening.

Up-close-and-personal-encounters with the animals including an impromptu cameo by a 9-foot-long boa constrictor that sent half of an unsuspecting crowd running for the hills ensured plenty of conversation and frantic social networking updates.

As always, attentions shifted equally between animal watching and people watching as a runway show of leopard and zebra prints took a back seat to Jim Agnew 's decision to wear a kilt, "I just figured I'd wear my kilt today," he replied, shrugging off any strategic motive. Meanwhile, fashion choices south of the ankle instantaneously distinguished an experienced Summer Safari veteran (flat soles) from a Summer Safari virgin (6-inch platform heels).

Another year, another sell-out; this time to the tune of 3,000 partygoers whose eager anticipation began so early that the communications department found themselves fielding requests for tickets before the first thaw.

"This thing is just taking off on its own ... by word of mouth, really. We have people calling for tickets as early as April," mused Tracy Gray, media relations manager.

Co-chairs Joe Moran and Anita Smith rounded out an amusingly eclectic mix of the young, the restless, the oldies, and the goodies that included Summer Safari founding father Phil Wolfe (in from North Carolina), Randy Dearth, Brian Gates, Bob and Jane Krizner, Mary Winston, Dr. Jack Demos, Colette Dugan, Patrick Loughney, Rita Randall, Jim "Doc" Mendelson, Tacy Byham, Jill Sandilla, James Stalder, Dr. John Payne, Paul Moylett, Ronna Nagin, board chair Beverlynn and Steve Elliott, Laura Ellsworth, Jim Buddy, and Gerald Missay.

With a pace best described as a leisurely stroll, the party moved its way around the grounds at a rate that was more tortoise than hare, thanks to an oppressive spike in humidity levels that ensured the ambiance of a tropical rain forest. Soldiering on, the PNC Pavilion (and the final stop of the evening) appeared on the horizon as if it were a mirage, congregants gathering under its shelter for a much needed shot of adrenaline from The Standard Band.

"The heat and humidity cost us a few pounds and a few guitar strings, but the energy from a fantastic crowd and great cause makes it one of our favorite shows all year," said keyboardist Jeff Weimer.

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