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'Zoo Venture' makes a visit to the mall

October 14, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

In an effort to be as strong as his color-changing friend, the chameleon, a young boy held a balloon above his head before an audience of about 900 squealing and giggling youngsters.

The boy tried to hold it for three seconds but before the count was over, the balloon popped and orange slime poured over the boy's head and shoulders. The audience roared with high-pitched approval.

"Animal Planet ZooVenture," a children's game show, came to Valley Mall this weekend, entertaining more than 4,000 kids over the course of its stay by slinging chocolate in the name of animals.

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The event, held in the mall's food court, filled nearly every seat with children and parents who raised their hands screaming for the attention of game show host J.D. Roth.

Roth said producers know kids like to get messy, so after children who participate on stage tell their friends about it, they inadvertently teach them a lesson on animals.

"They don't even realize they're learning something," Roth said.

The game show asks children who become zookeepers selected from the audience a series of questions related to animals, their behaviors, habitats and qualities, and awards children by not throwing goo on them. Children who don't get the answers right get everything from slime and pumpkin pudding to chocolate sauce poured on them.

Roth said the show travels more than 100,000 miles a year, touring 125 cities and seven countries. He said he loves walking into a new city and seeing kids holding "Animal Planet" signs and getting into the show.

"I can tell which kids need to be up here," he said.

A set of twins decked out in matching safari-like outfits donning a sign were awarded stuffed animals by Roth.

Latisha Campbell, 27, program director for the Hagerstown Boys and Girls Club, said she took a group of about 10 to the show as a reward for good attendance and after-school program participation, and thinks the children had fun and learned something.

"I liked the part when they pulled the hats off at the end," said Malcolm Dorm, 7, who goes to the Boys and Girls Club.

Dorm was referring to a game in which mystery hats, filled with either popcorn or syrup, served as possible answers - harvester, soldier, teacher - to questions about different animals.

The child who answered the question correctly got popcorn dumped on his head. The loser got goo.

Katlynn Moyer, 8, was waiting between shows at the foot of the stage. She said she loves the show and wanted to be picked for the contest.

"I wanna know how dogs get their foot all the way up to their head," she said.

Kathy Litzinger, 33, said her children's favorite part of the show is "watching people get stuff dumped on their heads."

Her son, Taylor Litzinger, 8, said he watches "The Crocodile Hunter" a lot, too, and is saving up money to buy a lizard.

"We were here getting costumes and we didn't expect this," he said.

"ZooVenture" has been touring for the past six years and airs on Animal Planet weekday mornings at 6 a.m.

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