Happy Hollow Park & Zoo's newest resident weighs 125 pounds, has a two-foot long tongue and enjoys avocados, oranges and a steady diet of insects. His name's Xander, and he's a giant anteater that was introduced to nearly 200 Happy Hollow Foundation donors at a VIP event on Thursday night.
I stopped by earlier that afternoon to talk to Zoo Director Valerie Riegel about him, but Xander was snoozing in his temporary quarters at the San Jose zoo so I missed my chance to say hello. Like any star, though, he woke up in time for his own party that evening and got to meet some of the guests, who were led from the zoo's entrance to the party spot by a camel currently visiting Happy Hollow. (The same camel, by the way, was hanging out in front of Santana Row's Hotel Valencia on Wednesday, but where else would you park your camel?)
Xander's arrival in San Jose is the first product of the anonymous $1 million donation the foundation received late last year, and he's also part of the Giant Anteater Species Survival Plan. That's literally a computer dating program for animals, and it's worked so far for Xander, who's the dad of a baby anteater at Reid Park Zoo in Arizona.
In addition to getting to see the anteater, Thursday night's partygoers were treated to South American-themed food to reflect Xander's native land, plus fried insects and an avocado smoothie inspired by his own diet (Xander gets an avocado every day and also squeezes the juice out of oranges).
They also got a preview of Happy Hollow's summer animal attraction, "Are You Smarter than a Lemur?," where contestants can test their knowledge and get a close look at some pretty cool critters including a porcupine, a serval and the lemurs who are the furry stars of the show (if you don't count furry animal guy and host David Jackson from Conservation International). I got my question wrong but wound up getting a peck on the mouth from a lemur, anyway.
The public will get a chance to see Xander sometime next month after his new home is enhanced with a pool and netting that he likes to climb. "Are You Smarter than a Lemur?" has three shows a day at the zoo's amphitheater through Aug. 17. Go to www.hhpz.org for more details.
SAN JOSE DOCUMENTARY ALMOST READY: Supporters of the in-progress and still-untitled documentary on the history of San Jose were treated to a short preview at a cocktail party held Thursday night at the Rose Garden home of Allison and Norman Kline.
"We're not over the finish line yet, but we're close," said Norman Kline, the driving force behind the project and its executive producer. With postproduction starting, Kline hosted the party in hopes of securing a few more donors and perhaps a couple more big sponsors to join a roster of supporters that includes the Knight Foundation, Cisco Systems, the Sobrato Organization, the Rotary Club of San Jose and the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The film's being made by CreaTV San Jose, and Thursday night's group had a chance to talk to CreaTV Executive Director Suzanne St. John Crane as well as producer Tricia Creason-Valencia and Mike Pierce, the documentary's director of photography. Creason-Valencia said the film will cover a lot of ground from San Jose's earliest days to its tech-heavy present. "Two themes that keep coming up are immigration and innovation," she said.
Mark your calendar for the big premiere Oct. 29 at the California Theatre in downtown San Jose.
YOU SCREAM, I SCREAM: Sunday is National Ice Cream Day, and we just wouldn't be Silicon Valley without a nice tech tie-in.
PayPal's offering a $5 credit for people who buy the frozen treat using its mobile app Sunday at several Silicon Valley ice cream emporiums, including CREAM (with locations in Palo Alto and downtown San Jose), Willow Glen Creamery in San Jose and Willow Glen Frozen Yogurt & Ice Cream in Campbell, Tin Pot Creamery in Palo Alto and Smitten in Los Altos.
And coming in a day late but certainly not a dollar short, the upscale Madera restaurant at the Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park is offering a decadent treat on Monday as its ice cream du jour. The special ice cream sandwich has garden mint ice cream layered and raspberry ice cream between two chocolate French macaroons.
OUT WITH THE OLD: The San Jose McEnery Convention Center's west side, facing Almaden Boulevard, started getting a makeover recently, which will be completed in September. As a result, the building's very 1980s pastel orange color is going white, which matches the modern look of the rest of the recently expanded building. "White is the new orange," Team San Jose spokeswoman Meghan Horrigan tweeted.
Now, if only something could be done about that equally dated facade on San Carlos Street.