It was a good day already for the Hindmans, as the Papillion couple were celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary Saturday.
But there was a trace of melancholy, too, as they and their two children were preparing to leave friends and the area for a job-related move to South Dakota. They knew this was their last trip to Omaha’s zoo for a while.
Then, suddenly, as mom Carissa strolled through the gate of the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, a “cheer tunnel” formed.
A small parade of clapping zoo staffers greeted the family with animals including a porcupine, tortoise, parrot and snakes. They congratulated the Hindmans for helping the world-class facility mark an annual milestone. When Carissa Hindman entered shortly after 9:30 a.m., she became the zoo’s millionth visitor this year.
She, husband Josh and their sons, James and Jack, were stunned.
“We didn’t know anything about the 1 millionth visitor,” said Carissa, noting that the kids were, at first, “a little overwhelmed” with all the fanfare.
“But we loved it.”
The Hindman clan quickly warmed up to the red carpet treatment. After mingling with the porcupine and reptiles, Carissa said, her family was treated to “backstage” interactions with penguins and giraffes.
The distinction came also with a complimentary zoo membership, gift basket, all-day ride wristbands and a “zoo tour unlike any other,” according to a zoo press release.
With the family moving away at the end of the month, the Hindmans, zoo members, wanted a “last zoo day” and got one like none other, Carissa said. They’re headed to Rapid City, South Dakota, where Josh, a dentist, has been stationed through the U.S. Air Force.
After about four hours Saturday of riding the train and checking out feathered and furry friends from unique vantage points, the kids and their parents were ready for a nap.
“It was fun,” said Carissa. “We’d never fed a penguin before.”