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Childhood wishes become grown-up realities

Posted by: Jennifer Larsen, Tourism Marketing

Did you ever visit a place when you were a child and think to yourself, “I want to work here when I’m big!” I think for many of us growing up in the Seattle area, that place was Woodland Park Zoo. In March of last year, that kid-sized dream became a reality when I became the zoo’s new Tourism Marketing Coordinator. What does that mean? It means that I am tasked with getting more Seattle visitors to come to the zoo. Bottom line, it’s up to me to let everyone who is visiting Seattle know how great Woodland Park Zoo is, and that it is a must see on their list of things to do here.

Kids have been connecting with wildlife at Woodland Park Zoo for generations. (Archive photo of Monkey Island courtesy of the Knudson family. Penguin photo by Jennifer Svane.)

A lot of what I talk about with visitors associations, hotel concierges, convention services and group operators comes from observing our exhibits, talking with keepers and other staff members about their experiences here at the zoo and also reading up on the history of this area and the zoo itself. Finding out, for example, that our dwarf crocodiles in the Day Exhibit first came here as young adults in 1973, made me realize that they have grown up with me, and are the same animals I saw as a young girl, since I have been visiting Woodland Park Zoo now for just over 40 years. It’s that sense of wonder and realization that the zoo has been intertwined with my life all these years that makes working here so special.

Female West African dwarf crocodile, a Woodland Park Zoo resident since 1973. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Every day here offers a chance to learn more about this cherished community landmark and the animals who reside at the zoo.  More than that though, is the constant reminder of how many people are impacted by their experiences as children: we carry those memories with us into our day to day lives, and many times, they direct our grown-up aspirations and dreams.

A future veterinarian? This young visitor learns empathy for animals while playing at a "veterinary clinic” inside Zoomazium. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Do you have any photos of yourself at Woodland Park Zoo when you were young? We’d love to see them! Feel free to share them on our Facebook wall or post a comment here with a link to your favorite photos.