During a year like no other, your contributions helped Como Park Zoo and Conservatory carry on—and keep an eye on the future.
At the end of a typical year, Como Friends shares a long list of all the things that contributions from people like you made possible at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory.
While there was nothing typical about 2020, your generous support of Como Friends proved more important than ever, helping Como Park Zoo and Conservatory carry on through an unforgettable year.
“Como is a destination that usually welcomes nearly two million visitors a year, so the pandemic and the public health precautions it required made 2020 a very quiet year at the zoo and conservatory,” says Jackie Sticha, president of Como Friends. “But even during the months when Como was closed to the public, the essential work of caring for animals at Como Zoo, and cultivating the horticultural collections at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory continued every day. So while the demands of this year pulled us in new and unexpected directions, support from the community also made it possible to carry on with our mission, and to keep moving on improvements we will all be enjoying at Como in 2021, and for many years to come.”
Here’s a look at how your generous contributions of all sizes to Como Friends were invested all across Como’s campus in 2020:
Best in Class Care for Animals and Gardens: While some cultural institutions closed down entirely during the pandemic, that was never a possibility at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, a community treasure that’s teeming with life. From feeding all of Como Zoo’s animals fresh fruit and shoots, to keeping the indoor gardens green and growing, to watering and weeding the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden, the everyday operations at Como continued even when the front door was closed. Fortunately, your support for Como Friends provided Como the resources to respond to a fast-changing environment, creating a two-team system designed to keep the staff healthy, and even shifting to contact-free care for animals at risk for coronavirus.
Making Progress on Improvements: If it’s been awhile since your last visit to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, you’ll be amazed by the transformation that’s taken place on Como Harbor in the heart of Como Zoo. This long-awaited improvement made fast progress in 2020, with a new amphitheater, year-round salt water pools and a naturalistic Pacific Northwest feel that’s nearly complete. “If there’s a silver lining to this time of uncertainty at Como, it would be that it gave construction crews a chance to make great progress on Como Harbor without inconveniencing our guests as much as we’d expected it to in 2020,” says Sticha.
Contributions from Como Friends also enabled Como to move ahead on a floor to ceiling renovation of the Aquatic Animals building, removing the historic fish tanks, and replacing them with more engaging microhabitats for lion fish and even a giant Pacific octopus. The steady pace of progress on both projects turned out to be an unexpected attraction for Como’s reservation-only visitors this summer. “Visitors were very excited to see how far construction on Como Harbor has come, and told us how much they are looking forward to seeing and experiencing these improvements in 2021,” Sticha says. “During a challenging year, it was wonderful to see such a visible sign of what Como’s future will be.”
Going Virtual: While Como’s usual crowds followed Minnesota’s stay-at-home orders, Como Friends and Como Park Zoo and Conservatory went virtual with innovative fundraisers, family programming and more. From our first-ever online “Sunset Affair” event that attracted more than 1,000 virtual guests, to fun Facebook LIVE programs that have helped Como followers stay connected to our animals and gardens, your support for Como Friends helped provide the resources needed to pivot to new platforms with creativity and innovation.
Sprucing Up: Como’s staff has taken advantage of state quarantine periods to cross a few big jobs off the to-do list, from removing overgrown vines in the Tropical Encounters habitat, to giving benches and other guest amenities a fresh coat of paint. Your support for Como Friends helps ensure that every corner of Como continues to thrive.
Managing the New Normal: With a public closure that lasted from March to June, and a second that began in November, ensuring that Como Park Zoo and Conservatory has the resources it needs to welcome visitors back safely has been critical. Your support for Como Friends made it possible for Como Park Zoo and Conservatory to provide a safe, phased reopening that served several thousand visitors last summer, with an inviting one-way route and signage to promote safe social distancing. As we look ahead to 2021, your support is essential to helping Como reopen according to best practice safety standards, encouraging our visitors to stay in touch with nature through one of Minnesota’s most beloved destinations.