By Andrea Gable staff writer

The Georgia Zoo & Safari Park welcomed more than 200 guests to its first “friendraiser” on Sunday at Variety Works in downtown Madison. The Savory Safari event featured a showcase of Georgia Grown food and specialty products and a live cooking demonstration on Big Green Eggs by students of Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. Guests were invited to tour the future site of the Georgia Zoo & Safari Park on Monticello Road at I-20. Owners Bill Killmer, Michael Vaden and Robert Tucker led groups through the almost 400 acres of the property on the zoo’s new specially-designed safari vehicles.

The vehicles will allow small groups to experience more interactive and educational tours of the zoo once the safari component is complete. Construction will begin soon on the walk-through portion of the zoo that will include an expansive aviary for exotic birds, a Mayan ruin-themed habitat for jaguars and other uniquely-designed animal exhibits. “We are overwhelmed by the support you have given us,” said Killmer to those in attendance at Variety Works. “This project is grown way beyond our initial vision. We are not just doing this for ourselves, but for the whole community. It’s not our zoo, it’s your zoo.” The Georgia Zoo & Safari Park is slated to open next summer. For more information, visit www.TheGeorgiaZoo.com.