Friday, June 16, 2006

A Panda Birthday Extravaganza

The Washington Times reports:

It's a party sure to draw thousands, complete with a birthday boy clad in black and white.

Giant panda cub Tai Shan -- who went from butter stick to ball of fur to big-time celebrity since his birth last year -- turns 1 July 9, and the National Zoo is celebrating his big day with a blowout fit for ... well, a bear.

"We've had birthday parties before, but I ... could say with little doubt that this probably will be the biggest," zoo spokesman John Gibbons said. "Everything we do with Tai Shan seems to be the biggest. He's definitely a national celebrity."

Tai Shan, who is slated to be sent to China when he turns 2, was born through the artificial insemination of mother Mei Xiang in March 2005. Since Tai Shan made his public debut Dec. 8, zoo officials said 1,097,975 people have flocked to the zoo hoping to get a peek at the cub.

Or 500,000 people twice.

The festivities will be appropriate for the zoo's furry celebrity. The celebration will include free birthday cupcakes for the panda habitat's first 1,000 visitors, traditional Chinese dancers, music and informational booths manned by zoo scientists and nutritionists.

And although Tai Shan himself won't be treated to cake, he will have a special panda treat of his own to munch on: a "fruitsicle."

"It's ... bamboo leaves and things like that that are frozen in water," Mr. Gibbons said. "On his birthday, Tai will be getting his very first one."


Panda panderers also can pick up blank birthday cards at the zoo or at participating Whole Foods Market and Panda Express locations and write birthday wishes to the still growing -- but according to all accounts, still unable to read -- panda cub.


Panda Express also will be giving away plush panda toys to children requesting a birthday card for Tai Shan at participating locations in the area.

More information is available from the National Zoo.

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