Wild Connections: September 2013

In this issue: AZA recognizes our Partners, the TKM Foundation swings to success, SSA Culinary teams win competitions, Sustainability and more.


[anchor name=article1]

AZA recognizes ssa partners

At the 2013 Association of Zoos & Aquariums Annual Conference in Kansas City, several SSA partners received awards that honored outstanding individuals and exemplary programs.

Individual awards include:

Sept2013-Satch Kranz

Satch Krantz

Satch Krantz, President and CEO of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, received the AZA’s most prestigious honor, the R. Marlin Perkins Award, acknowledging professional excellence from an individual.

Satch began his career at Riverbanks in 1973 and has served as its executive Director since 1976, making him one of the longest serving zoo directors in the nation.  During his career, Satch has served as president of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Satch is one of only three American zoo directors to serve as president of both of these organizations. He served again as AZA president in 2008, making him the first zoo director to serve two presidential terms since WWII.

To learn more about why the AZA honored Satch with the R. Marlin Perkins Award, click here to watch a video highlighting his achievements.

Sept2013-Steve Marshall

Steve Marshall

Steve Marshall, Director of the El Paso Zoo, was presented the Tim O’ Sullivan Award for his efforts in AZA professional development programs.

Steve became the El Paso Zoo director in 2007.  Previously, he was Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Zoo Atlanta for nine years. He also served as executive director of Chehaw Park in South Georgia, and held the positions of Director of Interpretation at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi and Curator of Education at the Birmingham Zoo. He began his career as a teacher/naturalist and wildlife rehabilitation specialist at a nature center in Tennessee.

Congratulations Satch and Steve!


Program recognitions:

Place the cursor over each image to learn more about these programs.










The links below will open a YouTube window:

View one of Los Angeles Zoo’s commercials for The LAIR – click here

View on of Detroit Zoo’s commercials for Vitamin Zclick here

[line][anchor name=article2]

fore!  T. Kevin Mcnicholas Foundation golf tourney  swings to success

Sept2013-golf toruney. km

(from left) Mark Kathman, Kevin McNicholas, Megan Mahncke, Marty Marcely

On July 22, many friends, partners and employees of SSA gathered to play some golf at Red Hawk Ridge in Castle Rock, Colorado – not in the name of competition, but to support an important cause.  27 foursomes teed up to raise money for the T. Kevin McNicholas Foundation at its inaugural golf tournament.

Players included the entire T. Kevin McNicholas Foundation Board (Kevin McNicholas, President, Mary McNicholas, Vice President, Shannon Fitzgerald, Secretary, Brendan McNicholas, Trustee, Sean McNicholas, Trustee, Mark Schroeder, Treasurer, Tim Brantley, Trustee, Kevin Eldredge, Trustee, David Goetz, Executive Director, Dick Campbell, Trustee, and Dave Steiner, Advisor), as well as friends and family (Bryan Fitzgerald, Alison Brantley and Jared Brantley).

Additional players included SSA employees (Todd Langfield, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Gary Schleuger, Denver Zoo, Paul Karros, Nashville Zoo,  Marty Marcely, History Colorado Center, Scott Schroeder, Ron Hall, Brad Smithling, Mark Kathman and Eric Loyall, Corporate, Eli Grill, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, and Paul Marcely, Denver Zoo) and clients (Bob Chastain, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Ron Rohr, National Western, George Pond and Corbin Benson, Denver Zoo, and Megan Mahncke, History Colorado Center), as well as a number of business partners.

With the help of sponsors, the T. Kevin McNicholas Foundation raised approximately $55,000, which will be distributed to high schools, trade schools and colleges for need-based scholarships.  Sponsors included:

Old Town Dental

Denver Zoological Foundation

AOR, Inc

US Foods

Citywide Banks

Tim and Alison Brantley

Charles Products, Inc.

Rus Murakami

Wells Fargo

StratEx Partners

Campbell, Killin, Brittan & Ray LLC

Dippin’ Dots LLC

Tom Kelly

Tulsa Zoo, Inc.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Service Systems Associates, Inc.

K-M Concessions, Inc.

K&M International, Inc.

Courtyard by Marriott – Denver Stapleton

EKS&H – Certified Public Accountants and Advisors

 The family of Kevin and Jennifer Eldredge

It was a fantastic day, and we eagerly await next year’s tournament. Thanks to everyone who participated in this important cause!

[line][anchor name=article3]

the autry and Cincinnati zoo take culinary honors

The Autry National Center recognized for unique dish


The team, with SSA Regional Vice President Greg Edgar

The SSA Culinary Team at Crossroads West (the café at the Autry National Center) competed against nine culinary powerhouses in the California Restaurant Association Culinary Clash: Battle Los Angeles.  The event benefits the California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, raising money for high school culinary arts education. The teams were required to create all entrée plates, plus six amuse-bouche, in 45 minutes using only two butane burners. The panel of six judges included World Master Chef Ferdinand Metz and Chef Khristianne Uy (also known as Chef K, winner of ABC’s The Taste, Season 1).

The Crossroads West team – Executive Chef Derek Healy, Operations Manager Tori Witzke and ProStart student Orlanda DePaz – impressed the judges, winning both the Secret Ingredient and Coca-Cola awards for braising kale in Coca-Cola. Their menu included:

  • Katafi Wrapped Shrimp
  • Cowboy Black Eyed Pea “Caviar”
  • Fanta Orange & Odwalla Lemonade Vinaigrette
  • Baby Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Black Lava Salt
  • Coffee & Cinnamon Rubbed Venison Loin
  • Duck Fat Roasted Russian Fingerling Potatoes
  • Dried ”Cherry” Coke & Organic Blackberry Balsamic Glaze
  • Crispy Brussels Sprout Petals

The 2013 Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo, now in its 76th year, is the largest showcase of foodservice products in the western United States, with more than 650 exhibitors and 9,000 attendees.


Cincinati Zoo wins the Hamilton County Fair’s Chili CookoffSept2013-Chili (2)

It’s often said that good things come in threes.  Well, for the third year in a row, the SSA Cincinnati Catering Team has won the Hamilton County Fair’s Chili Cookoff! Executive Chef Brian McCorkell’s innovative Zoo Brew Chili was made from fresh peppers grown throughout the zoo grounds in small garden plots.

To intensify the flavors, the pepper mash of Trinidad Scorpion, Fushimi, Black Ball, Ghost, Thai and Cayenne Peppers were marinated for four days.  This combination of spicy ingredients won the titles of Most Creative Chili and Spiciest Chili.

Chef McCorkell’s team included Assistant Catering Manager Carla Albrinck-Kacher and Catering Captain Sharifa Brown.

[line][anchor name=article4]

Using reclaimed material to build retail fixtures

Sept2013-maryland zoo projectRobb Moore (Maryland Zoo in Baltimore), winner of the 2012 SSA Eco – Most Creative Award, continues to actively use reclaimed wood found throughout the zoo to craft items.    For instance, using pallets to create Adirondack-style chairs (a process known as upcycling) is just one way to reduce the number of items ending up in landfills.  Robb’s projects have inspired many SSA accounts to follow his lead and be resourceful with repurposing material.

This summer, he used an old wooden barrel to create a whimsical “barrel full of monkeys” plush fixture, handcrafted a Weasel Ball table (allowing demonstration of the product) and built some portable displays, all from reclaimed material.   These units look professional and have a tremendous environmental message for guests, staff and client.

Robb previously gave old beverage tankers a beautiful, upcycled face lift, using pallets and discarded wood.   He also built collection units to support the SSA Teracycle program, where typical snack food packaging is repurposed into useful items, such as notebooks, jewelry cases and tote bags.


[line][anchor name=article5]

Growing food in our culinary operations

Sept2013-CMZ rooftop garden

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Rooftop Garden

In 2012, the team at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo created a roof top garden above the popular Grizzly Grill.  The potting soil and many of the containers were donated, and SSA purchased plants from the zoo’s Horticulture Department’s annual plant sale. The project initially cost $3,000 for two gardens.   Garden curator Justin Oxford says they have 12 different types of tomatoes and numerous herbs as well as corn for a total of over 40 items.   The restaurant uses the vegetables and even named a salad at the new Overlook Restaurant – the Overlook Rooftop Garden Salad.

Sept2013-Chef in the Greenhouse

Chef McCorkell harvests fresh herbs.

Guest and partner feedback has been tremendous, and with an experienced gardener like Justin in the kitchen, it has been a complete effort from start to finish. They are now working on growing some vegetables during the fall and winter months.    During your next visit, watch for Justin waving to visitors climbing high on the zoo’s Mountaineer ride, which passes over the garden.

At the Cincinnati Zoo & Garden,  Executive Chef Brian McCorkell has utilized fresh herbs from several Go Green gardens located throughout the zoo.  He also visits the SSA Greenhouse on a daily basis to harvest delicious, fresh vegetables for zoo guests to enjoy in the popular Zoo Café.

[line][anchor name=article6]

eating in the open air

Sept2013-cmz overlook cafeThe Overlook Café is the newest addition to people-feeding at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. With postcard-worthy views of the city, the al fresco patio space is designed to give guests a unique, upscale alternative for lunch or drinks at the zoo.  The café offers craft beers and featured wines, a first for the zoo. Menu items include tapas-like specialties made with sustainable and local ingredients whenever possible.  Guests order at the counterSept2013-cmz oerlook cafe 2, and food and drinks are delivered right to the their table.

It’s reported that this has become Zoo President and CEO Bob Chastain’s favorite place for lunch. And we are certainly not surprised. When you visit Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, come hungry!


[line][anchor name=article7]

ivan gartner:  1955-2013

husband, dad, gm, friend

It is with a heavy heart that we announce that Ivan Gartner, SSA General Manager at Zoo Boise, passed away unexpectedly October 1 while visiting Denver on business.  Ivan’s story is woven into the fabric of our company, and his loss greatly saddens us all.  WeSept 2013 - Ivan will always remember his compassion, friendship, humor, drive and ability.  Most of all, his focus on family and friends — on making personal connections with people — made him someone you just wanted to be around.

Ivan joined K-M Concessions in the 1970s – his first job was selling soft drinks at a Denver raceway and working summers at the Denver Zoo.  After college, Ivan became a manager with the company, working at the National Western Complex, the Denver Zoo and the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave in Golden, Colorado.

When SSA entered into one of its first contracts, Ivan was installed as the first General Manager at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, relocating to the Steel City with his wife Carol and their infant son Stefan. Ivan and his family spent the next 20 years in Pittsburgh.  Later, when the need arose, Ivan became SSA’s first Director of Audits and Controls. Most recently, he relocated yet again to direct the operations at Zoo Boise.

SSA President Tim Brantley adds, “While the story of Ivan’s steadfast and loyal service to our SSA family is amazing in and of itself, the truly heartwarming story about Ivan is not his career, but his undying love and attention to and for his wife Carol, his son Stefan, his brother Fred, his parents, and the many close friends he has made over the years. He was admired and loved by many, and will be missed.” A memorial service for Ivan was held in Denver on October 6.

[line][anchor name=article8]

names in the NEWS

David Goetz, SSA Executive Vice President and T. Kevin McNicholas Foundation Executive Director, has been appointed to a two-year term on the Board of the Colorado Restaurant Association’s Education Foundation.  David was also elected to a one year term on the Board of the Mile High Chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association.


Mary Healy

Mary Healy, the Director/CEO at Sacramento Zoo, was elected to a two-year term on the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) council.  She also joined an elite group of Sacramento women when she received a Women Who Mean Business award from the Sacramento Business Journal.

Sept2013-pretend city bolton 2

Sandra Bolton and Congressman Campbell

Monterey Bay Aquarium founding director Julie Packard was selected to be part of the California Parks Forward Commission, which will develop a plan to help revamp the state parks system in an effort to restore confidence and financial stability to the agency. The dozen volunteers will spend the next 18 months addressing the problems that led to the state threatening to close 70 of the 280 parks in the system after many years of funding shortages.

Pretend City’s Executive Director Sandra Bolton recently received an award from Congressman Campbell for Outstanding Leadership in the Non-profit Industry.

Welcome Cincinnati Zoo Sous Chef Brad Robertson!  Brad started his culinary career while attending the University of North Texas, where he earned a BS degree in Hospitality Management. While cooking in Texas, he worked in the kitchens of the Dallas Country Club, and used his connections to move to the Piping Rock Club in New York. After several years working around the country, he went home to Cincinnati as Executive Chef at the Murphin Ridge Inn. After three years of country fine dining, he joined the Cincinnati Zoo as Sous Chef.  Chef Brad says he looks forward to this new opportunity in elevating zoo dining with such a talented culinary team.

Pretend City staff members Kareely Tabb and Andrea Contreras just celebrated their one year anniversary with SSA on July 23. Pretend City Associate Wendy Dalton’s daughter, Zoe, has been accepted to the University of England.

[line][anchor name=article9]

Partner happenings

Would you eat oatmeal worm cookies?

In celebration of all our six and eight legged friends, the El Paso Zoo recently held its 12th annual Bug Awareness Weekend. In addition to the live bug displays, there were kid-friendly activities, and the SSA Culinary team offered bug cooking demonstrations and tastings during lunch hours each day.


Attendance Records Shattered!

Sept2013-DallasZooThe Dallas Zoo set a July attendance record, with 119,368 visitors – the second month in a row with record attendance.  July 2013 exceeded the previous July record of 114,544 by nearly 5,000 visitors, and marked the fourth-busiest month ever in the zoo’s 125-year history.

For the fourth consecutive year, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden has attracted more than one milSept2013-RIVERBANKS LOGOlion visitors, welcoming a record 1,039,372 guests during the 2012-2013 fiscal year that ended June 30.



A new King Cobra Exhibit recently opened at Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s Reptile House.  The star attraction, of course, is an 11-foot-long King Cobra, but there is also a 5’ Komodo Dragon and a variety of snakes from southeast Asia. The exhibit features replicated stone ruins inspired by 12th century Cambodian Angko Wat. The zoo is also moving forward on its African Adventures exhibit, which will bring back lions, breeding elephants and cheetahs to the zoo. The zoo hopes to break ground soon and open in late 2014/early 2015.


Two Red-Fronted Brown Lemurs joined 17 other lemurs, representing six different species in the Lipman Family Lemur Forest exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo.  This is the largest outdoor lemur habitat in the country and one of the only ones to give lemurs access to climb numerous large, natural trees throughout the exhibit.[line]




Cheyenne Mountain Zoo recently welcomed the latest addition to their reticulated giraffe herd, a female calf.  She is the 198th giraffe calf born at the zoo, and a first-born calf to 4-year-old Msitu.[line]

A rare Ocelot kitten was born at the Dallas Zoo to first-time parents. The healthy female kitten was named Lindy, which means “pretty” in several languages. She is the third Ocelot kitten born at the zoo, and the first since 2001. The other was born in 1956.  Ocelots are small, secretive nocturnal cats and are one of the top predators in Texas, preying on small mammals, lizards, amphibians, fish and birds.[line]

Niko, a Snow Leopard cub, is now on display in the Robert J. LaFortune WildLIFE Trek experience at the Tulsa Zoo.  The endangered cat was born earlier this spring.  The zoo will soon break ground on a new exhibit, The Hardesty Snow Leopard habitat, as part of the Lost Kingdom complex (slated to open in 2015).[line]


On Key

Related Posts

Cultural Attraction Trends to Look for in 2024

In the new year, keep an eye out for some of the movements that are shaping our industry.  Retail The revival of physical stores is offering unique, immersive in-store experiences.  SSA’s Community Tables and Marketplace

Our Top Stories of 2023

As we enter 2024, let’s reflect on our top stories from the last year. Here’s a recap of our top 3 blogs that resonated the most with you!  1. “Table Stakes for Cultural Attractions in

Meet Our Partner: The Konery

Who doesn’t love a waffle cone? But have you had one that is Birthday Cake flavor? Or Toasted Coconut?   Meet The Konery, a partner to SSA and our many zoo, museum and aquarium attractions across