Princess Day
The Santa Barbara Zoo’s annual Princess Day raises awareness about threats to the world’s frogs and other amphibians — in a festive atmosphere fit for royalty. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)
  • The Santa Barbara Zoo’s annual Princess Day raises awareness about threats to the world’s frogs and other amphibians — in a festive atmosphere fit for royalty.
  • The makeover station was a popular stop during the Santa Barbara Zoo’s annual Princess Day on Sunday.

Hundreds of families and their children — in princess dresses and fairy wings — gathered at the Santa Barbara Zoo over the weekend to raise awareness about threats to the world’s amphibians.

The zoo’s highly popular Princess Day also drew many young boys sporting superhero, prince and pirate outfits.

The annual two-day event is more than dressing up in sparkly, miniature ball gowns. It hopes to bring attention to the world’s many frogs, toads and other amphibians that are at possible risk of extinction, said Julia McHugh, the zoo’s public relations director.

Multiple activities were aimed at raising amphibian conservation awareness, as well as educating guests about how aquariums and zoos are committed to ensuring the survival of all amphibian species.

“There has been a shocking drop in populations of the world’s amphibians,” zoo CEO Rich Block said, mentioning that “accredited zoos and aquariums are working to address the issues in the wild, and are creating temporary captive ‘lifeboats’ of some of the most threatened species.”

Sunday’s gathering offered live animal encounters and keeper talks focusing on several of the zoo’s amphibians, including the milky frog, marine toad, blue tongue skink, caiman lizard and western toad.

Guests could learn and join FrogWatch USA, a citizen science program run by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Through FrogWatch USA, volunteers are trained to identify and collect data on frogs and toads living near local wetlands, creeks or other habitats.

From February to August — during the breeding season — volunteers listen for the croaks, peeps, trills and other calls of common species.

The findings are submitted to scientists to help them learn more about frogs’ distribution, behavior and abundance over time.

At Sunday’s event, princess characters from animated Disney movies like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, along with mermaids and other fairytale characters, posed for photos with children.

The gathering also had an array of bounce houses, kid-oriented crafts, music and more.

Santa Barbara City College’ cosmetology academy provided hair and nail makeovers, and visitors certainly got the royal treatment.

Santa Barbara resident Monica Rodriguez was participating in Princess Day for the first time. She was there with her 8-year-old daughter, goddaughter, cousins and their kids — ranging in age from 10 years to 3 years.

The children were excited about the face painting, she said.

“I didn’t realize how big of an event this was,” Rodriguez said. “I think they (the kids) have had a blast, and there is a lot to keep them occupied and entertained.”

The children also enjoyed sliding down the hill at the zoo’s kid-oriented play area.

“We spent a good hour there,” Rodriguez said.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.