It was the San Diego Zoo’s 80th birthday in 1996, Hippo Beach had recently opened, and the Zoo was ready for a “hefty” celebration. It kicked off in January at the Pasadena Rose Parade, in which the Zoo entered their float, “Party Time.” Goodwill Ambassador Joan Embery was along for the ride to greet the crowds along the parade route, and the float featured dancing hippo characters Rube and Rubie—named after the Zoo’s historical hippo pair. The San Diego Zoo was the first zoo to ever have a float, and it certainly got a lot of attention!
During the Celebr80 year, the Zoo highlighted the animal species and culture of six different continents, with special shows of music, dance, acrobats, and animal ambassadors. This “Celebration of the World” included a Passport to Adventure booklet for each continent that visitors could stamp at locations around the Zoo. A set of commemorative pins was also given out to visitors: tiger for Asia, hippo for Africa, macaw for South America, polar bear for North America, koala for Australia, and reindeer for Europe.