Every year, SeaWorld San Antonio has hosted a running event to sponsor their work in conservation. It echoes the Dream Big 5K, as well as the Run in Busch Gardens. Though traditionally held in fall, this year’s, the 7th annual, was hosted during the celebration of Wild Days to truly highlight the need for conservation.
Participants were separated into 2 groups, the 5K runners who raced around the park, and the family fun walk, those who wanted to support but also wanted to enjoy the animals that spotted the pathway. These animals helped cheer participants on, and their keepers helped to educate those who stopped for a closer look.
The day began before the sun even rose, as participants gathered in front of San Antonio’s iconic arches. As the sun rose, friends from Sesame Street joined the crowd, dancing to music and posing before dolphin trainer/SeaWorld ambassador Clay Carabajal helped the crowd warm up and stretch, as well as explain the importance of today. Park President Carl Lum also delivered a few words, giving a speech thanking the audience for their participation as well as their support. After one of SeaWorld’s own ambassadors from entertainment sang the national anthem, the race was off!
The family fun walk started off by walking behind the scenes and into white whale and dolphin stadium, where a pod of beluga whales, who swam gracefully beside the walkers, making naught but a ripple as they slid through the water. After exiting the stadium, the crowd followed the loop around Ski Lake, where not only could they view the progress of the new coaster Wave Breaker; they could also meet Chloe, the barred owl animal ambassador. Chloe was found to be half blind after being discovered on the side of a road, and when she was deemed non releasable, she found a forever home in SeaWorld. She hooted happily at those who passed by.
The loop curved into the penguin encounter, as guests not only experienced puffins, but also got to view a baby king penguin chick. Once outside, they met a black and white ruffed lemur, who like all lemurs, are faced with extinction due to deforestation in Madagascar. Jabari the African crested porcupine and Suzie the umbrella cockatoo also stood together. Jabari hopes to vanquish fears of her species, while Suzie strives to remind pet owners to do research before adopting. As Runners twisted around Guy Harvey’s new mural, they meet Marsha the American alligator, as well as two tortoises who hid amongst the hay.
During home stretch, the path pushed into Shamu Stadium, where Takara was playing with a bucket. As runners crept closer to the finish line, their jogs turned to sprints as cheerleaders cheered them on. At the end, they were rewarded with food, as well photo opportunities with Shamu. Participants could also learn about bat conservation, the SeaWorld camps, and meet the flamingos that lined the path; among them were 2 chicks.
Eventually, participants were called into Shamu Stadium, where not only were runners recognized for their speed and time; they were also rewarded with the results of the fundraiser. Carabajal revealed that over $30,000 was raised for the SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. After thanking all participants, they were finally treated with a one of a kind Shamu show featuring the whales Kyuquot and Tuar. The whales were introduced to several lucky children who asked them for behaviors. Kyuquot splashed the crowd for a bit, and as the music turned to upbeat pop, the whales seemed to dance to the beat. Bowing and breaching, the show tied up all the feeling behind that day, that when everybody comes together in support of a cause, we can truly make a difference.