YappoPalooza, zoo aid sea turtle conservation efforts

BROWNSVILLE — The annual YappoPalooza found a new home this weekend at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville as the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle conservation festival raised funds and awareness of the endangered species.

The day began as hundreds and people gathered for the event’s inaugural Ridley Rush 1-Mile Walk and Run, which started in the zoo’s parking lot and then weaved through the zoo, where organizers peppered the course with obstacle stations that highlighted the perils that face sea turtles in the wild.

“When the participants went through the zoo grounds, they got to experience what a sea turtle goes through as a female coming up on shore to nest and then a baby hatchling surviving the first year of its life,” said Charlie Abrego, public relations coordinator for the zoo.

Many participants arrived in turtle-themed attire or costumes. At the starting line, Sunny Gracia, 4, wore suspenders holding up a turtle-shell costume, complete with a turtle head and flippers. The sea turtle costume was made by her mother, Maribel Martinez.

“Me and my Tia Maria (Guerrero) are going to win the race,” Gracia said, standing next to her aunt, who was wearing a jellyfish costume with tentacles pouring down over her face.

The Brownsville family heard about the fun run and YappoPalooza through Facebook and decided to join the festivities. The fun run would be the first official run for Gracia and her aunt. Near the end of the mile, the tired 4-year-old’s energy renewed when her aunt pointed out the finishing line ahead.

“Yay!” she cried out. “We’re going to win the medals.”

Everyone who completed the mile received participation medals at the finishing line, which was placed at the outskirts of the YappoPalooza festivities in the zoo.

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