Metro Weekly

DC Center and National Zoo partner for a day of celebrating equality among the animals

Smithsonian's International Family Equality day activities join the fun

Panda at Smithsonian National Zoo

“The zoo has always been a place for families to go,” says Jonathan Gilad, chief communications officer of the DC Center. “It’s a great way to build community, and have families connect with each other.”

For the past six years, the Center, in partnership with Rainbow Families DC, has held an annual “Gay Day at the Zoo” celebration on the first Sunday in May, coinciding with International Family Equality Day. The event draws LGBTQ people — and, in particular, families — to the zoo for a day of games, picnics, and animal gazing. This year, the Smithsonian has decided to officially recognize International Family Equality Day, and will hold its own series of family-friendly activities in conjunction with Gay Day.

Those activities include two free concerts at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. by The Reflex, a local ’80s tribute band, an ice cream social, various field games, and temporary animal tattoos for those who want a bison on their bicep or a panda on their (face) cheek.

Other activities include “animal enrichments,” held throughout the day, where visitors will see zoo animals have their habitats remodeled, play with toys, participate in games to exercise their cognitive skills, and feast on rainbow-colored treats, made from natural ingredients like crushed ice, beets, and bamboo.

“We have a history with the Gay Day at the Zoo, but we never really formally partnered with anybody in the past,” says Pamela Baker-Masson, the zoo’s associate director of communications, exhibits, and planning. “We saw celebrating International Family Equality Day as a perfect opportunity to say that all families at welcome.”

“LGBTQ families can often be in their own little islands, and have a hard time finding their place within the community,” adds Gilad. “That’s why it’s great that the National Zoo is taking a proactive step to send a message that they’re a safe and welcoming place to come.”

Gay Day at the Zoo and the Smithsonian’s International Family Equality Day celebration is Sunday, May 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW. Cobalt blue T-shirts to promote the event and benefit the Center are available for $20 at Number Nine and Town Danceboutique and online.

Visit For a full schedule of the zoo’s family day events, including IFE Day special animal enrichment activities, visit

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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