Watch out, Denverites: A new beast has roared into town. The Predator Ridge exhibit, modeled after the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya, opens today at the Denver Zoo. The eight-acre display, which comprises fourteen species of mammals, birds and reptiles, will house over fifty animals, including lions, spotted hyenas, African wild dogs, porcupines, banded mongoose and more.
"Our intention was to try to create a real sense of adventure for zoo visitors and improve the living conditions of our animals," says zoo president and CEO Clayton Freiheit. "And we want to make the statement that a new Denver Zoo is in the works."
Visitors can learn more about Predator Ridge by visiting the Pahali Ya Simba (Swahili for "Place of the Lions") interactive discovery center, which is located just inside the zoo's new main entrance. Visitors can view scenes of animals from the Samburu National Reserve and learn about exotic African reptiles such as the African rock python and the leopard tortoise.
"It's an absolutely marvelous part of Kenya. It's one of my favorite places," says Freiheit of the Kenyan preserve. "It's so rich in the various wildlife that lives there."
The Lion Kopje, a rocky outcropping that's home to six lions, is sure to be a habitat highlight. Predator Ridge also features several stations that offer close-up views of zookeepers as they work with the animals.
"There are a lot of wonderfully interpretive elements throughout the exhibit. We tried to make it as unique and as interactive as possible," says Freiheit. "These are dangerous predators, but we work hard to ensure that the keepers are able to work safely with the animals."
To mark the grand opening of Predator Ridge, the zoo will hold a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning at 11:30 a.m.; the exhibit opens to the public at noon. The opening celebration continues through Sunday, June, 27, with attractions such as special musical and cultural entertainment and animal encounters.
"We really want to try to engage Denver Zoo visitors," says Freiheit. "We want them to appreciate these animals and give them information on conservation issues, because that's really the reason we're here."
The Denver Zoo is at 2300 Steele Street, on the north side of City Park. For more information, call 303-376-4800 or visit www.denverzoo.org. -- Julie Dunn
Five Points celebrates pride
When the sweet smell of honey-basted barbecue and corn roasted on the cob fills the air in Denver's historic Five Points district, it must be time for the annual Juneteenth festival. The summer celebration commemorates the June 19, 1865, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by General Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas, informing slaves that they had actually been set free two years earlier. For more than 130 years, cities across the country have observed the day with storytelling, music, food, and African-American visual and performance art. Denver's version, which has been shortened to a one-day fest this year, has been counted among the nation's largest. Juneteenth 2004: A Celebration of Heritage will fill the streets of Five Points today with festive floats and a parade that launches at 10 a.m. at Fuller Park, East 29th Avenue and Williams Street, and lands at Sonny Lawson Park, at the corner of Park Avenue and Welton Street. The afternoon's roster includes food vendors, art stalls and free activities such as reenactments and educational exhibits from the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, and performances by the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble and the Black Hands Drum Ensemble.
Call the Five Points Business Association at 303-832-3770 for more information. -- Kity Ironton
Take a peek into life as an urbanite at this weekend's Center City Open House, self-guided tours of twenty Denver condos, lofts and apartments -- everything from affordable rental units to high-end luxury lofts. "Obviously, the overall goal is to get more people educated about and interested in living downtown," says Kate Vincent, housing program manager for the Downtown Denver Partnership Inc., the event's organizer. "We're showcasing a wide variety of products and are hoping to attract a good mix of people."
The open house will feature eight rental projects as well as twelve properties with units for sale in downtown Denver and the adjacent center-city neighborhoods (those within a two-mile radius of downtown, such as Uptown and Curtis Park). Participating developments include the Kerouac Lofts, the Delgany, the Ajax Lofts, Commons Park West, the Creekside Lofts, Beauvallon, Denver Square Condominiums and Post Uptown Square.
The free tours take place today and tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Maps and guides are available at any participating location, at the DDP office, 511 16th Street, Suite 200, or online at www.downtowndenver.com. For further details, call 303-534-6161. -- Julie Dunn
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Grungy Grill Contest scrapes up a winner
Who said radioactive mold growing on the griddle was a problem? That same putrid fuzz could be the ticket to a new barbecue in the second annual Show Us Your Grungy Grill Contest. Judges for the event, which is sponsored by Red Robin restaurants and Christy Sports, have selected fifteen finalists from among those who heeded the call to come out of the disgusting-grill-owner closet. Coloradans submitted pictures of their sad cookout equipment along with one-sentence testimonies as to why the messy gear was noteworthy.
"Some of the entries are heartfelt," says Red Robin spokeswoman Jill Preston. "Like 'My dad's in the military, and he deserves a grill.'" Others aren't. One contestant sent a picture of a window fan, bolstered by a plea that if this was the best he could do, he "obviously needs a grill."
The finalists will engage in a heated competition today from 1 to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of the Highlands Ranch Red Robin, 63 West Centennial Boulevard. While the lucky grand-prize winner will take home a deluxe Weber grill, this is a contest in which no one gets burned. Runners-up will also receive grills -- albeit less-fancy ones -- and onlookers can enjoy free appetizers, kids' games and more. -- Caitlin Smith