Houston News & Search
Gaggles of girls, broods of boys and packs of parents descended on the Houston Zoo Saturday morning for a novel experience.
It was not the goggling the new baby elephant or feeding of the giraffes, though plenty did marvel as those creatures as well. In fact, it wasn’t any animal that drew the children on a July day with a heat index of 110 degrees. It was snow.
Some stayed in their bathing suits and sunhats while other families bundled up their litters in snow boots and gloves to plow through the 4-inches of snow during the zoo’s two-day summertime tradition.
Some particularly prepared parents pulled from their bags carrots planned for snowmen’s noses. While most had inch-long baby carrots, one family brought a hulking 12-inch specimen fit for rabbit royalty.
For many of Houston’s smallest residents, it was their first time encountering the strange substance. They reveled as they touched it, threw it, tasted it.
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Two-year-old Marcelo Salazar toddled up to his dad, looked quizzically at the snow and asked in Spanish, “Ice?”
His dad looked down and told him about snow, which the Canadian-born Venezuelan-American kid wasn’t old enough to remember seeing.
Marcelo was wary at first. It took a few minutes until his 11-year-old big sister could coax him onto a tarp.
When he finally stepped onto the sleek surface, he promptly fell onto his bottom. He waddled like a penguin on treacherous terrain, looking not quite sure what to make of it all.
But he came back, facing his fear or perhaps just forgetting it as toddlers sometimes do. He grabbed his sister by the hand and set out to traverse the tiny tundra. He seemed to pick his steps as carefully as a gorilla walking a tightrope.
Nearby, older children moved with less trepidation.
A girl about 10 tossed a snowball at her two younger brothers. She stood upright, turning her head side to like a meerkat surveying the desert sands for signs of trouble.
The announcer at the event periodically reminded guests that snowball throwing was not allowed, but the rule was rarely enforced. Children and parents alike violated it with glee.
A dad wearing a Houston Fire Department shirt showed his son how to pack a good, dense snowball. The boy, old enough to know better, drew a stern “no” when he asked, “Can I lick it?”
On another side of the snowfield, a 4-year-old boy picked his prey.
He carried a snowball the size of his head. He walked toward his mother, who protested, “Henry, that’s too big!”
But Henry Nix unleashed his weapon at his mom, Courtney, who was splattered with snow when she reached out to catch the hurtling colossus.
“No,” his dad, Scott, said with a grin, “that’s the perfect size.”
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