IF YOU GO
What: Go Bananas Day: 75th Birthday Celebration.
When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Satur-day (zoo open 9 a.m.-5 p.m.).
Where: Chattanooga Zoo, 301 N. Holtzclaw Ave.
Admission: $8.95 adults; $6.95 ages 65 and older; $5.95 ages 3-12; free ages 2 and under or 75 and older.
From a pair of rhesus monkeys housed in tiny cages in 1937 to a multimillion-dollar, accredited facility in 2012, the Chattanooga Zoo has changed significantly in the last 75 years.
The Warner Park facility has been celebrating that history since April 3 with a series of daily activities that will culminate Saturday with a 75th birthday special event, Go Bananas Day. The party will mark 75 years since the original facility opened on June 16, 1937.
Go Bananas Day festivities are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The schedule includes games, crafts, snacks, a 75-pound banana-flavored MoonPie (the world's largest) and a special animal presentation at noon. All the events are free with the regular admission price.
"All in all, it'll be a grand celebration," said zoo executive director Darde Long. "We're really excited to be celebrating this. It's hard to believe the zoo is as old as it is."
In an interview in March, zoo spokeswoman Marisa Ogles said the anniversary events have all been free with admission as a way to show appreciation to the community for continuing to support the zoo, even during low points when its future was in question. The hope is that growth will continue long after Saturday.
"We feel very blessed for the community's continued support," Ogles said. "This is really only the beginning of what we have up our sleeves in terms of exhibits and everything. Just as Chattanooga has grown and evolved, so has the zoo."
Long said some activities, such as daily educational and animal presentations, that were introduced as part of the 75 Days of Fun celebration will continue after Saturday. The zoo plans to open its newest exhibit, Deserts and Forests of the World, later this year.
1937: A permanent zoo is established in Warner Park with construction of a 4-foot by 6-foot pen for a pair of rhesus monkeys.
1942: The zoo's holdings expand to include lions, buffalo and alligators.
1968: Hank the chimpanzee, one of the zoo's most-beloved occupants, is born in Africa.
1976: Hank arrives at the Chattanooga Zoo, where he is housed in a concrete-floored enclosure.
1985: After public outcry against the quality of the zoo's enclosures, additional staff is hired, Friends of the Zoo support group forms and donations are sought to fund improvements.
1989: The zoo drafts a master plan to utilize the entire 50-acre property at Warner Park. The plan proves too costly and expansive and is reduced to emphasize community environmental education.
1996: A jaguar exhibit opens.
1998: The Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredits the Chattanooga Zoo. A new exhibit is completed to house spider monkeys.
2001: The $13.1 million Gombe Forest chimp exhibit opens.
2004: The Himalayan Passage, the largest indoor red panda facility in the country, opens.
2008: A new $4.2 million entrance complex opens.
2010: Corcovado Jungle exhibit opens to house brother jaguars Phil and Gene.
2011: Hank dies; snow leopards Czar and Kasimir give birth to Renji.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...