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January 8, 2016 Calgary Zoo

LOVE AND COURTSHIP IN THE WILD

Two of our little red pandas   share a moment.

Eight years ago, Chad May was looking for a present for his sweetie on Valentine’s Day — something impressive, something unusual. He found it at the zoo’s annual In the
Heat of the Night event, and has never strayed since.

“You’d think we might have tired of the evening but every year sports a different theme,” says the lead installer and investigator for Price- Langevin. “Sure, they’re all about mating rituals in the animal kingdom . . . but let me tell you, there’s an infinite amount of material to cover.”

From slide shows of exotic flights of fancy to interactive games — this couple has seen their fair share of bold, brash and downright bizarre behavior, afflicting all species of wild life.

“The most embarrassing,” confesses Chad, “ is when they hauled me up on stage, blindfolded me, and then led me through a sniffing contest. “My wife and two other women were also up on stage and I, of course, was supposed to be able
to find my wife.”

Needless to say, Chad failed that game, “but man, we had laughs.”

Depending on the theme, the zoo’s emcee, Gillian Cardwell, has worn everything from feather boas to smoking jackets (the year she dressed up as Hugh Hefner) in the 20 years she’s helmed the event. Quick to quip about her internet searches being scrutinized, Gillian says “researching” the evening’s entertainment is one of the job hazards of organizing the event.

What she comes up with is an all-star lineup of entertaining and educational speakers, games and displays, preceded by an elaborate buffet, cash bar and “terrific candle-lit ambiance amongst the tropical plants in the Conservatory,” says Chad. “It’s become a night my wife and I look forward to every year.”

In fact, it’s become such a tried and true ritual for Chad, he’s got a table preference (a quiet section down the garden path that hugs the perimeter) and banks on buying his wife a stuffie (the theme’s signature animal) at the end of the annual Valentine’s Day event.

“She’s never been one to collect stuffed animals but these nights are so memorable, she hangs on to these ones,” says the 44-year-old father of three.

It looks like this year’s theme will be something along the lines of Las Vegas, reveals Gillian. “What happens at the zoo stays at the zoo,” laughs Gillian.

The next In the Heat of the Night event runs February 13 and 14. Tickets include a gourmet meal, romantic wandering violinist and a hilarious naughty talk about animal courtship and mating. Tables are for two but tables for 6 are also available. Cash bar. Adults only!


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