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FOR THE KIDS : How Big, How Long, How Tall: You Make the Call : The Santa Barbara Zoo invites visitors to get up close and personal with the animals by guessing their weights.


The Santa Barbara Zoo will have a contest for visitors Saturday that puts new meaning into the term wild guess.

Zoo-goers can try their luck at guessing the length of the Burmese python, or they can estimate the weight of an Asian elephant. Or they can eyeball the Baringo giraffe and calculate its height.

The contest, called "How Big . . . How Long . . . How Tall," isn't limited just to kids. It's not that easy. (Here's a clue about the hefty snake: It weighs 200 pounds and takes eight handlers to maneuver.)

The zoo staff will be doing the weighing and measuring from 2 to 3 p.m., with the numbers announced after that. It should be quite a sight. The California Highway Patrol offered its truck scales for the elephant weigh-in, and the humongous animals have been trained during the past month to stand on the scales, according to Craig Issod, the zoo's marketing and public relations coordinator.

The idea behind the contest (there will be prizes for the winners) is to give kids some information about the animals in a fun way. The zoo will also have some other amazing animal facts on display for the event. And an added bonus on the contest day: One child will be admitted free with each paying adult.

If you haven't been to the zoo in the last year, you'll be pleased with some of the changes. First of all, the whole entrance is new. As you come in, you cross a bridge over Swan Lake, which is now home to the majestic black-necked swans.

You'll find a new patio area here with tables and chairs, and a new restaurant called the Ridley Tree House, which has indoor seating and a greater selection of food than the old snack bar. The zoo has also added a new gift shop in this area.

On the animal front, the zoo has added a pair of golden lion tamarins, and beautiful gold-colored monkeys that come from the Brazilian rain forest, where their numbers have diminished to only 450. Among the new animals born at the zoo are two two-toed sloths and a male anteater.

The playground at the top of the hill has been overhauled. Most impressive is the renovated sea lion pool, which now has a huge underwater viewing window. It's even equipped with some stairs for a slightly handicapped sea lion.


You know the story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Well, you haven't heard the whole story.

Hundred Hats Youth Theater in Santa Paula has put a new, witty spin on the old tale in its latest effort, "The Trial of Goldi Locks," which opens Friday.

The original production, written by director Terry Brenner-Farrell, explores what happened to Goldi after she returns home from her run-in with the three bears. In this version, poor Goldi goes on trial for breaking and entering, trespassing and vandalism, as she learns she must pay the consequences for her behavior.

The cast for the production are kids, 10 to 14 years old. The youth theater is part of the Santa Paula Theater Center, 125 S. 7th St., where the play will run weekends through Jan. 30. Friday performances are at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $4, $3.50 for children 12 and younger. For information, call 525-4645.


Puppeteer Jim Gamble is bringing his circus to town. Gamble and his small, two-foot-tall circus will be performing at the Conejo Valley Adult School, 1025 Old Farm Road, Thousand Oaks, on Friday. Performance times are 10 and 11:30 a.m.

This is a quick-paced marionette show that includes a colorful entourage of clowns and animals--even a fierce man-eating lion. Tickets are $5 in advance, or $6 at the door. For information, call 493-4348.


Sunday is a free day at the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard. The museum, 424 S. C St., designates one Sunday each month especially for families. (Also, the gallery attendant on Sunday speaks Spanish.) The next free day is Feb. 27.

Ventura County Life contributor Jane Hulse is a parent and knee-deep in kids' activities. If you have any family news, send it to her at Ventura County Life, 5200 Valentine Road, Suite 140, Ventura 93003, or send faxes to 658-5576.


* WHAT: "How Big . . . How Long . . . How Tall," a contest at the Santa Barbara Zoo invites visitors to guess the size of animals.

* WHEN: Saturday. The zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the weighing and measuring will take place between 2 and 3 p.m.

* WHERE: The Santa Barbara Zoo is at 500 Ninos Drive, off Cabrillo Boulevard.

* COST: Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 2 to 12 years, and $3 for senior citizens. One child will be admitted free with each paying adult on contest day.

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