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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 11:02 p.m., Saturday, June 2, 2007

Thousands enjoy Military Appreciation Day at zoo

Advertiser Staff

Thousands of military families took advantage of free admission to the Honolulu Zoo today as part of Military Appreciation Day.

By about 10 a.m., more than 1,500 people had turned out for the event, which in addition to the regular zoo exhibits included free food, entertainment and activities for children.

Some 8,000 people were expected to turn out throughout the day, organizers said.

"It's nice to come out and be among other military members. It's a good environment," Air Force Staff Sgt. Raleigh Harris said.

As the mid-morning sun beat down on the zoo, Harris and his family found reprieve at the mask-making tent, where 4-year-old Laila was coloring a leopard mask and her 2-year-old sister Amara decorated a monkey face.

Harris and his wife, Jessica, watched their children with smiles.

"It's nice," Jessica Harris said.

In addition to mask making, kids could get temporary tattoos of zoo animals, bags of goodies and make other crafts.

For the parents, the Royal Hawaiian Band played patriotic songs and a few contemporary tunes. Mayor Mufi Hannemann also spoke, thanking the military for their service and dedication.

"I'd like to extend a message to those who have loved ones overseas," he added. "Part of our spirit of aloha is to ensure that as your loves are away, we're here for you." The event runs through 2 p.m.