Zoo Story: Carpet Sweepers, Hurricanes and Bones

From interactive events to the people who keep things moving, check out these photographic highlights from Day 1 of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' annual meeting.

Animal Attraction (top): With 141 exhibitor booths—up from 125 in 2009—the 190,000-square-foot hall becomes an ad hoc nerve center for attendees. “Our biggest challenge right now is growing pains,” says Muri Dueppen, director of integrated marketing at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Clean Sweep: Every evening, 50,000 square feet of carpet has to be vacuumed. “You have 2,000 people handing out business cards and eating and drinking. It gets messy,” says David Lekich, director of sales for Paramount Convention Services in St. Louis. Lekich, riding the sweeper, flew in six people from his company and hired 30 local staffers to handle the exhibition.

Unsung Heroes: Smooth transitions between meetings proves essential, and convention center staff (left to right) Tony Shunway, Feliciano Salinas, Johnny Sanchez, Pablo Ceballas, and Rocky King help AZA staff ensure the meeting trains run on time.

All those shuffling feet wrinkle the carpets, so they need tightening every day.

Mighty Wind: Interactive exhibits prove to be immensely popular with attendees, especially the Hurricane Simulator. Shirley Prince (right) operates the attraction and shows Vindi Minne the tunnel tests.

Behind the Scenes: Paramount Convention Services worker Shaun Spink uses a hand vacuum to clean corners. He wields a carpet knife to fix any frayed edges. Two thousand linear feet of drape was assembled to separate booths and hide maintenance areas. “All those shuffling feet wrinkle the carpets, so they need tightening every day,” says Paramount’s Lekich.

Have 6-D Glasses, Will Travel: Exhibitor Triotech features a 6-D “Safari Adventure” ride that has participants lurching wildly in their seats to capture poachers of an endangered baby rhino in Africa.

Good Bones The exhibits run the educational gamut of scientific discovery, including the teaching tools from Jay Villemarette, president of Skulls Unlimited in Oklahoma City.

Spider in the house! Scientist Monica Bond reacts to the 5,000-pound Mexican redknee tarantula made of 600,000 synthetic hairs. “People think it’s real at first,” says Trey Billings, VP of manufacturer The Dinosaur Company.

Dinosaur Minded Robby Gilbert, prehistoric display advisor at The Dinosaur Company, preps one of the company’s incredibly lifelike raptors for attendees, many of whom will ask, “How much does it weigh?” just before asking, “And what’s the cost?”

(Photographs by Cody Pickens)

Monica Corcoran

By Monica Corcoran

Monica Corcoran’s work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles magazine, and InStyle, among other national publications. MORE

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