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Hagerstown couple plans concert to raise funds for Cumberland, Md., zoo

April 21, 2013|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • Diablo is a bobcat who lives at Tri-State Zoological Park in Cumberland, Md. A concert Saturday, April 27, featuring former American Idol contestant Bucky Covington, above left, will benefit the zoo.
Courtesy of www.tristatezoologicalpark.com

CUMBERLAND, Md. — Lynn and Rick Bibbee's story is one of hope and heart.

It's a story about caring and compassion and taking dedication to a whole different level.

It's about putting their efforts into preserving a place where all of God's creatures, big and small, exist in harmony.

It's about saving a zoo.

A few years ago, the Hagerstown couple didn't even know Tri-State Zoological Park existed in Cumberland, Md. — despite the fact that they had lived there for many years.

But during a visit to the area last March, Rick Bibbee picked up a local magazine and spotted a discount coupon for admission to the zoo.

When he returned home, he shared the information with his wife and the two decided to make it a destination.

"I love animals," Lynn Bibbee said. "So my husband knew this was something I would be interested in learning more about. One week later, we were making the trip."

But when they arrived, "one look at the outside of the place and I wasn't feeling so good about this," she said. "It was really sad looking. I wasn't even sure it was open."

Once they stepped inside the park, however, the couple would begin a journey they never would have expected to travel.

They met the owner, Bob Candy, and the more they talked with him, the more they would feel his passion for the animals under his care.

But the place needed a lot of work.

Candy leased the almost 16-acre property in 2003 and thought the contours of the land would lend itself to a zoo.

It had always been his dream since childhood to work with animals and now he was making it come true.

He began taking in animals, including those with special needs and animals people no longer wanted.

He was building up his business, one squeak, one roar at a time, when an electrical fire burned one of the structures on the property, resulting in a major setback.

"Following the fire, many people thought the zoo had closed down," Lynn Bibbee said. "But with little money and few resources, Bob continued to work at keeping it going."

It could be a page out of the nonfiction book that later became a movie, "We Bought a Zoo."

Bibbee said Candy uses his own money for the business and applies for small grants.  There are no paid employees and everyone who works at the zoo volunteers their time and efforts.

"His story was so heartwarming, almost instantly, we knew we wanted to help," Bibbee said.

Since last March, the couple has been making trips from Hagerstown to Cumberland, where they lend a hand doing a variety of jobs around the park — from feeding the animals to doing repair work.

In an effort to give the Tri-State Zoological Park a financial boost, the Bibbees are organizing "Cabin Fever," a benefit concert featuring country singer and former American Idol contestant Bucky Covington. Also taking to the stage will be Lindsey Erin, Southern Grind, Johnnie Bubar, Ellie Flier and The Cramer Bros. with Tim Haines.

The concert will be held on Saturday, April 27, at the Allegany County Fairgrounds in Cumberland.  The first artist will appear at 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 to $25.

Bibbee said the concert will be preceded by a family fun day that includes a kids zone with games and entertainment, pony rides, a petting zoo, the Western Maryland Street Rod Association car show with awards and blood pressure screenings from noon to 3 p.m. This event is free.

Bibbee said despite the obvious need for repairs at the zoo, "we fell in love with the place right away and our love has grown stronger.  It just needs a little push to turn things around."

She's hoping the concert will not only raise much-needed funds for the park, but also make people aware it exists.

"My husband and I have done some fundraising but we've never organized a concert or anything remotely this big," she said. "But we feel so strongly about helping the zoo, we wanted to do this."

Bibbee said the idea for a concert began several months ago, while flying back from Nashville, Tenn.

"My daughter had graduated from college and had gotten a job in Nashville," Bibbee explained. "I decided to accompany her and on the flight home, I sat next to Bucky Covington, the former ‘American Idol' contestant. We struck up a conversation and told each other about our lives. When I got off the plane, I knew what we could do as a fundraiser. We could do a concert."

Bibbee said she got in touch with Covington's people, got confirmation and the ball got rolling.

The couple contacted other performers about joining the show and all agreed to donate their talents for the day.

"It just feels right," Bibbee said. "Meeting Bucky that day on the plane was kismet."

In addition to performing, Bibbee said Covington has agreed to do a private tour of the Tri-State Zoological Park.

"When he sees it first-hand, then he'll understand why we have a passion for this zoo," she said.

Bibbee said the zoo features a menagerie of animals, including Siberian tigers, lions, brown bears, llamas, goats, monkeys, birds and reptiles.

"I've volunteered there long enough that I've begun to know the animals by name," she said.

Bibbee said the Tri-State Zoological Park, partnered with Animal Park Care & Rescue, is now a 501(c)(3) company, which means donations to the zoo are tax deductible.

"Every little bit helps," she said.

Bibbee's efforts to aid the zoo will continue on Saturday, May 4, which is Join Hands Day, a national volunteer day designed to help develop relationships between young people and adults through volunteer work.

"I think this will be a great opportunity for people to come together to lend a hand at the zoo," she said. "It's also a great opportunity for students who need community service hours. We're asking for help doing some remodeling. We'll be building picnic tables, doing some painting, cleaning, gardening and a variety of jobs. We also hope to begin work on building an amphitheater with stadium seating. The owner envisions this as a place where visitors, such as school groups, could come and watch presentations and learn all about animals."

Bibbee said several Scout troops have signed up to help, as well as an adult volunteer who will be bringing his dump truck.

The day will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 2 p.m.

Persons interested in participating in Join Hands Day at the zoo can email richard.l.bibbee@mwarep.org or call 301-790-7799.


If you go ...

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What:  Cabin Fever Benefit Concert for the Tri-State Zoological Park in Cumberland, Md.

When:  Saturday, April 27; family fun activities will be from noon to 3 p.m.; concert begins at 3:30 p.m, featuring Bucky Covington, Lindsey Erin, Southern Grind, Johnnie Bubar, Ellie Flier and The Cramer Bros. with Tim Haines.

Where:  Allegany County Fairgrounds, 11400 Moss Ave, Cumberland, Md.

Cost:  Family fun activities, free; concert tickets are $20 to $25. Call the ticket line at 301-759-0550 for tickets and more information.

Information about the upcoming concert, including directions, can be found at www.woodsetter.com

MORE: The Tri-State Zoological Park can be reached from Hagers-town by taking I-68 to exit 46 (Naves Crossroads), turn right onto Naves Crossroads; take first right onto Christie Road and go underneath the overpass. Stay left at the split. The zoo is located about 1/2-mile on the left hand side. There is a small stone wall in front. Turn up the driveway.



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