By Amanda Hatfield Anderson
BREVARD -- Twenty years ago, 70,000 students from all over the Space Coast were given a special opportunity, which laid the foundation for the Brevard Zoo.
These students created special bricks -- some decorated with stones, initials and their names -- that would create the walkways for the Zoo.
To this day, the bricks remain the very stepping stones throughout the Brevard Zoo, guiding visitors to and from the many exhibits it has to offer.
On Saturday, Feb. 8 and Sunday, Feb. 9, the Brevard Zoo invites these now "grown-up" children, as well as the community, to celebrate "Happy Brick-Day Weekend" from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Regular Zoo admission applies.
"The Zoo has experienced tremendous growth since opening in 1994, with Paws On and the Latin America loop," said Cheri Purnell, director of membership programs. "We added Wild Florida, Australasia and Expedition Africa loops, a fun train ride -- giving guests the opportunity to see animals otherwise not viewable -- did a total renovation of the original Paws On, to include a water play area, a 20,000-gallon aquarium and other interactive experiences."
Along with these additions, Brevard Zoo's animal collection has grown substantially.
"We currently have more than 880 animals, representing 182 species, located in Florida, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia, and our conservation programs continue to expand," Ms. Purnell added.
The Zoo prides itself on carrying out its mission of Wildlife Conservation, through education and participation.
A popular destination for many, who travel to the Space Coast, the Brevard Zoo crossed the 400,000-visitor mark in 2013.
The Zoo also adds more than $28 million to the economy, annually.
Wanting to celebrate its 20th year, the Brevard Zoo decided to host "Happy Brick-Day Weekend."
"The bricks throughout the Zoo still have tremendous meaning for many people -- especially the children, who made the bricks, and are all grown up now," Ms. Purnell said.
During "Happy Brick-Day Weekend," attendees will have access to some areas of the Zoo, which are not typically available for public access, such as the Education Complex and Zoo Schools classrooms.
Those grown-up children, who made bricks, will also be given a special opportunity during "Happy Brick-Day Weekend."
"Brick makers will receive a special, complimentary family photo, with a Zoo brick them," Ms. Purnell added.
With the opening of the Brevard Zoo's newest exhibit, "Meerkat Hamlet," this March, the Zoo is currently offering the opportunity to purchase "bricks" on the Children's Naming Path, which will be a part of "Meerkat Hamlet."
With its official birthday celebration taking place on March 15 through 16, to coincide with the opening of "Meerkat Hamlet," the Brevard Zoo is looking forward to a tremendous 20th birthday.
"It is our vision that this birthday celebration will bring back the community-wide excitement and engagement, that defined the original creation of Brevard Zoo, so that it can harness that energy to power the next 20 years of the Zoo's grown," Ms. Purnell said. "What better way to start than to bring back the brick-makers?"
The Brevard Zoo will host "Happy Brick-Day Weekend" on Saturday, Feb. 8 through Sunday, Feb. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Regular Zoo admission applies.
The Brevard Zoo is located at 8225 N. Wickham Road, Melbourne.
For more information, call (321) 254-9453 or visit www.BrevardZoo.org.