SAN DIEGO - Children aged 11 and younger will be able to visit the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park for free this month under a program launched in conjunction with the zoo's 100th birthday.
Thousands of people were on hand at the zoo Sunday for a 100th birthday party. The festivities began with a parade and ended with a ceremony and cake cutting in the historic Wegeforth Bowl, named for the zoo's founder, Dr. Harry Wegeforth.
Oct. 2 was recognized as the zoo's birthday because on that date in 1916, Wegeforth and his brother met with three San Diego colleagues to form the Zoological Society of San Diego, according to the zoo. They got the idea from animal exhibits at the Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park a year earlier.
A large birthday cake was cut by the zoo's director, Robert Horsman, to end the festivities. The four-tiered cake was created by Charm City Cakes in Los Angeles and was topped with a colorful, three-dimensional version of the Zoo's centennial logo, which featured Rex the lion.
The cake was specially designed for the zoo's 100th birthday and took five days to decorate as each piece of confetti was hand-placed. The chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting boasted 100 pounds of fondant icing and three dozen sparklers.
The celebration at the zoo also served as the official start of Kids Free, an annual event that offers free zoo and Safari Park admission all month long to children 11 and younger, when they are accompanied by an adult.
The zoo plans to offer extra activities to connect children with wildlife and nature on Saturdays and Sundays throughout October.
More than 100 other theme parks, museums and restaurants also offer deals for youngsters this month. Details are online at http://www.sandiego.org/promotions/kids-free.aspx.