Monthly Archives: March 2009

Md zoo opens

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore opened for its 133 rd season on Saturday with “animal ambassadors,” half priced admissions and a road crew promoting the new CGI crapfest Monsters Vs Aliens (seriously, even the trailer looks bad).

According to today’s Baltimore Sun, approximately 2,300 people braved the chilly weather and ever-present threat of rain to see half-finished renovations and animals that were still hibernating for the winter.

I arrived at 11am, a full hour after the “animal ambassadors” were returned to their respective cages though they did have what looked like an Easter Bunny (with cropped ears!) and Tom Green who apparently traded his recent boardroom gig for hawking memberships to a mid-sized zoo. The one line that was open was slow as I suspect the woman behind the glass wasn’t sure what she was doing yet; you kind of expect that sort of thing on opening day, but it still isn’t the best way to start off the day.

I pass the gift shop, a member sign-up area and the aforementioned Monster table (as the latter two half blocking the only pathway to the zoo trams). I was the only person in line for the tram so I was let directly on, but we couldn’t leave until they’d boarded at least one other family.

The tram let us off outside the Polar Bear Watch and Base Camp Discovery (where they hold their “WILD Encounters” program throughout the day – Saturday’s animal was a Peregrine Falcon). Straight ahead was the Village Green which is undergoing renovation temporarily moving its cafeteria to a large tent behind the BCD and some kiddie rides that no-one was riding (their poor attendant was bored shitless) .

The first place I visited was Polar Bear Watch which included smaller areas for other artic creatures like the snow owl, artic fox and a raven (technically not an artic animal, but this is Baltimore). The Tundra Buggy®, which effectively bisected the Polar Bears’ area, looked a lot cooler from the outside than what its sparse interior actually delivered.

It still too early for lunch when I came out of PBW so I decided to walk through the Maryland Wildlife & Children’s Area. The was supposed to be a small marsh like area though it looked too dry to be an effective bog, the only bog turtle I saw in this exhibit was made of metal and had teenagers posing on top of it. Next was a faux-rocky area representing Maryland’s streams, but it was closed for renovation along with the “Forest Tree.” There were no displays in the “Woodland” area and the turtle\frog exhibit in the “Meadow” area was closed because the animals were still hibernating.

Exiting the Meadow brought me directly to the Maryland Farm\Meeting Barn. Sadly, the only “working farms” I’ve ever been to have been in places like this. Now, all I had to do was walk through the construction zone back to the lunch tent, but least it wasn’t raining yet.

It was 11:45am, and I knew I wouldn’t be eating again until I exited the African exhibits so I made my way across Flockers Field to the concession tent. Nothing on their menu really appealed to me, but I ordered a hot dog, a Diet Coke and a bag of Fritos anyway and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, my order was nearly lost in the echo chamber of cashiers\servers who needed me to repeat my drink three times before someone thought to bring me one from the cooler (as one cashier helpfully pointed out it was the only drink in there at the time). Again, to be expected, but still not the best way to continue a day.

I didn’t take very long to get through the first half of the zoo’s African Journey (especially since I didn’t feel like feeding a giraffe). I had a short break at the snack shop. I took some time to watch Samson, the baby elephant and get some pictures of the penguins, but the camel rides were closed.

It was 1:18pm when I came out the African exhibits, and I took at the schedule and see that there is a “Polar Bear Chat” set to begin in about 10 minutes. I make my way across the field in time to see the keepers arrive with a large bucket of fish which they proceed to throw into the enclosure. They open up the floor for any questions – nothing. After roughly 10 minutes of silence, I make my way back to the tram stop and back to the Metro (where it still wasn’t raining).

Categories: attractions, Baltimore, news | Leave a comment

A Visionary experience

The American Visionary Art Museum is an interesting place, sort of a frenetic pop-art explosion of self-taught artistic expression. It’s also HUGE – a sprawling three story, three building extravaganza that takes up the entire block, yet it reminded me a bit of the Lowe with its colorful curved walls and small semi-hidden galleries.

The museum also has a lot in common with another downtown institution Geppi’s (see review here) except that the curators at AVAM understand the importance of “white space” – especially with kind of schizophrenic (literally\figuratively) artwork their museum displays. This means that while there are a lot of things to look at the galleries never feel claustrophobic (except maybe that salmon one with the pen\paper drawings).

The most fascinating part of the museum is the variety of materials they display: a 5 foot long model of the cruise ship Lucitania made entirely out of toothpicks, a glass mosaic sculpture of Icarus falling from the sky and their mascot “Fifi” a large car like contraption (which they label as a “kinetic sculpture”) shaped like a french poodle.

They also have photos of crop circles, gigantic Faberge eggs as well as a collection of mechanical toys and larger scale metal sculptures, and yet they have some pieces that seem bizarrely commercial (the supposed antithesis of the museum) such as their gallery of pop-art portraits on the third floor or the psychedelic inspired prints in their “Marriage of Art, Science and Philosophy” exhibition on the second level. They even have a small collection of art made with ball-point pens.

But those are minor flaws and didn’t detract too much from the other more original pieces. I am looking forward to the opening of their exhibition in early October.

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Anthracite Heritage planning

The first planning meeting for this year’s Anthracite Heritage Festival of the Arts was held last night, and the committee announced several new acts for this year’s event: a juggler, 2 historic re-enactors, a balloonist and a wool spinner.

Okay, so they’re not exactly “A-listers,” but it’s not easy finding available talent for the third weekend in May (better known as Memorial Day). But, I’ll be there and that has to count for something, right?

I’ve been to all previous Heritage Fests, and one thing they have all lacked was something for kids to do. Sure, they had the kids’ art clothesline, and that lowly duck game that St John’s ran, but that was it. Will a balloonist and juggler help in this matter? Maybe… but not for long.

Older kids (teens\tweens) were usually involved with a church\school booth, but others could be seen on the cemetery tours and the criminally under-advertised SCRA [Shamokin Creek Restoration Alliance] site tour. Younger kids were basically on their own and typically bored shitless.

Perhaps they should look into setting up a special kids area with games and entertainment. I’m sure there are plenty of groups in our area who could use the money these kinds of endeavors might provide (especially if they buy their prizes through Oriental Trading). Plus it would give parents time to explore the festival on their own accord.


Categories: coal region, festivals | Leave a comment

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