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Zoo-themed Birthday Party

With weekly visits to the Fort Worth Zoo, Merlyn Savikko had no trouble picking a theme for her daughter’s gender-neutral birthday bash. Dressed head-to-toe in animal print and surrounded by more than 50 guests, Cadence blew out the two candles atop her zebra-colored marble cake in her Fort Worth home-turned-zoo.

// Click on image at left to view more images from wild bash.

To save time, Merlyn made Cadence’s cake the night before the party, froze it and frosted it in the morning. She thanks YouTube for teaching her how to swirl colors together to get the appearance of thick stripes.
In total, Merlyn spent more than 30 hours party prepping. She caged up animal figurines in tiny Popsicle stick crates and used fake plants, scrapbook paper and hula skirts to set the jungle mood. She says Michaels, Hobby Lobby and Amazon were her main suppliers.
After months of creating the Pinterest-inspired decorations while Cadence napped, Merlyn watched as all the pieces fell into place on her “tomboy” toddler’s big day.
Children and their keepers arrived at “Cadence’s Zoo” to find a variety of snacks for every kid, hatchling and cub. Merlyn carefully labeled each food by associating it with a different animal: Gorilla Grapes, Whale Food, Rabbit Food, Wild Dogs and Cheetah Dip. To quench their thirst, kids could stop by the watering hole or pick up some organic “jungle juice.”
After feeding time and crafts, party patrons trekked outside for free play with large inflatable animals as well as the small figurines they found on top of their cupcakes. Merlyn says Cadence chose a polar bear.
At the end of the day when guests were set free, they grabbed gift bags full of goodies that included animal crackers, stickers and finger puppets. The bags were sealed with a clothespin butterfly whose snack bag wings held perfect portions of Goldfish crackers.
Rather than traditional cone-shaped party caps, kids hiked home wearing safari hats they decorated with foam stickers and wild-style bandanas tied around their necks.
Cadence and her parents will soon pick up and move their fort — her father finished his residency and will be participating in a fellowship in Houston. “We are moving this summer and wanted to celebrate one last birthday with our good friends in Texas,” she says. “It was a bittersweet ending to our wonderful five year stay in Fort Worth.”
Published June 2014