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Toronto Zoo Giant Panda Exhibit...


by Festival Nomad  "Scoop" Correspondent, Judi McWilliams

As most of you know by now, the Toronto Zoo has an extremely special exhibit, the Giant Panda's. When our liaison Katie Gray, Supervisor of the Zoo's Public Relations Office, offered us the opportunity to attend the Media/Pre-View day of the Giant Panda Exhibit we were quick to accept. We arrived early to make sure we got a "good parking spot". The drive to Toronto was good, as we timed it well enough to miss the "rush hour". The signs leading up to the Zoo had huge cut-out shapes of photos of the Giant Panda's. I made (asked nicely) the Festival Nomad to stop at each sign so that I could "snap a shot". Silly I guess, as we were soon to see the "real Giant Panda's". Never-the-less, the signs helped build up the excitement lying ahead. We were greeted at a reception table at the Zoo Gate entrance where we were outfitted with our "media kit". They passed me a USB Giant Panda Exhibit stick. We usually are given a large folder with brochures, flyers, written information, etc. This was a treat to receive and easy to carry. We were escorted by a Toronto Zoo staff member to the exhibit area.

Along the way, we walked through a VIP tent just to the side of the main entrance. As a side note to our day, the tent had lots of tall tables with black linen table cloths, hanging plaint and a wooden carpeted floor. I thought the floor was unsteady and found that odd as could be "un-safe" for visitors. It turned out that just as we were walking to the Giant Panda Exhibit, an earthquake registered around 10 a.m. We talked with friends at home who said they felt the earthquake also. Just one of those moments when you wonder afterwards where were you when "X" happened. Well, onto the excitement. We walked up to the exhibit and found lots of media, reports, TV crews and Katie Gray. We had not seen her in a number of years and were surprised to greet with such warmth and friendliness. We took the opportunity to view the Giant Panda's in the enclosure, as most of the visitors were viewing one of the Giant Pandas who was in the outdoor area. After we travelled through the enclosure it was our turn to view the other Panda from outside. Our photos speak volumes of what we were so grateful to see. I can sum up my personal experience by saying that no TV documentary, video; photos stories can even describe the true overwhelming emotions from seeing these magnificent mammals in person. This must have been true of many of the visitors that day as there seemed to be excitement to the point of "frantic" as folks scrambled to "get a view" and "snap a photo". It was time to leave the Giant Panda Exhibit for this day to let others have some time. Fortunately the Giant Panda Gift Shop was open and well stocked and we joined other visitors to take home Giant Panda mementos for our family and friends! We definitely will be back to explore more of what the Toronto Zoo has to offer. There is so much more to learn, explore and discover!