Houston Zoo’s 100th Anniversary Turns Into a $2.3 Million Night With Lions, Tigers, Tortoises and Tarantulas Playing a Starring Role

There's No Party Like an Outdoor Zoo Party

BY // 10.25.22
photography Daniel Ortiz

When Mother Nature cooperates, there is no better place to stage a charity fundraiser than Houston Zoo. So it was on a beautiful Saturday night that a sellout throng of 700 celebrated the vaunted zoo’s 100th anniversary and in the process raised a record $2.3 million.

A spectacular evening it was, beginning with the golf cart transport from the Houston Zoo entrance to the tented Masihara Pavilion.  The park sparkled with profusions of fairy lights hanging from massive oaks and the  path wound between the lion and tiger environments allowing early arrivals to view the great cats on the prowl.

The funds raised on this night will be put to work maintaining and enhancing the Zoo campus and continuing its lauded animal conservation programs.

In fact, two of the Houston Zoo inhabitants directly contributed to the bottom line. Naming rights to one of the treasured Galápagos tortoises sold in the live auction for a stunning $47,000. Naming rights to a second tortoise were offered and in came an additional $47,000.

Other Zoo residents in attendance included Zoo ambassadors — an American porcupine, a tarantula, an American alligator and a harmless serpent.

“The Centennial Ball,” orchestrated by chairs Kelley and Stephen Lubanko and Kelli and John Weinzierl, honored generous zoo patron Kathrine McGovern who with her late husband John P. McGovern and their namesake foundation have contributed millions to the growth of the Houston Zoo. In praising the McGovern generosity, Houston Zoo president and CEO Lee Emke remarked on the couple’s vision for the Zoo’s potential and for turning dreams into reality.

The etherial gala tent was draped in white sheers while glorious floral centerpieces sprouted from tables. It was an appropriate setting for the 100 year anniversary that was acknowledged throughout the program and celebrated with a champagne toast led by Kelley Lubanko and Kelli Weinzierl and presentation of an anniversary cake topped with sparklers.

Artist Angela Fabbri (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)
Artist Angela Fabbri creating a work for auction at Houston Zoo’s centennial gala celebration. (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)

Following the anniversary dinner, the Houston Zoo after-party for young professionals, chaired by Chita and Lane Kraft, kicked in with the Georgia Bridgwater Orchestra that kept the younger crowd dancing until midnight.

PC Seen: Auction chair Jordan Seff and husband Dylan, Sue Chin, Beverly and Jim Postl, Bobbie Nau, Hallie Vanderhider, Julie and Stephen Chen, Cathy and Joe Cleary, Walt and Leila Mischer, Claire Liu and Joe Greenberg, Cullen and Robert Muse, Kristy and Chris Bradshaw, Stephanie and Frank Tsuru, Shawn Stephens and Jim Jordan, Leila and Walt Mischer, and Cathy and Joe Cleary.

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