Behind the Scenes: Henry Vilas Zoo

Behind the Scenes: Henry Vilas Zoo

Madison Magazine: Please describe your involvement with the Henry Vilas Zoo.
Lilly Bickers: I am member of the Friends of the Henry Vilas Zoo Auxiliary Board and Co-Chair of Rendez-Zoo 2016.  We serve as volunteers to help lead, plan and execute fundraising events for the Henry Vilas Zoo and also serve and community ambassadors.

MM: What has been the most beneficial element of this organization for you?
LB: The Henry Vilas Zoo is an amazing resource to Madison. The zoo’s Auxiliary Board, which I participate in, is an amazing group of women from across Madison with a variety of talents and careers.  This allows us to best represent the Henry Vilas Zoo and come up creative ways to help support our free zoo and all its community programming and animal welfare. 

MM: How has the Henry Vilas Zoo and its events enhanced the Madison community?
LB: The Henry Vilas Zoo is one of only a few national accredited zoos in the country that is free to the community it serves.  Because there is no admission charge, families of any economic means can visit the zoo to learn about the animals and make memories together.

MM: Please tell us about the upcoming new event Rendez-Zoo.
LB: Rendez-Zoo is the new annual fundraising event to enhance the community-supported zoo and its future exhibits. Guests will be taken on an international trek visiting animals, savoring the tastes, spirits and enjoying entertainment from around the world provided by our very own talented local business community.  The entire zoo will be open to stroll through 5 distinct continents – Asia, Africa, Europe, North American and South/Central America – something that the zoo has never done before for an evening adult only event.

MM: What are you most excited for at the Rendez-Zoo?
LB: I’m most excited about showcasing the international side of our community. From unique restaurants and spirits to entertainment featuring music and dance from around the world.  In addition to the event VIP Guests will receive a unique animal experience that only our amazing zoo staff can offer.

MM: How does the Rendez-Zoo help the Henry Vilas Zoo?
LB: All proceeds go directly to the Henry Vilas Zoo!  That is why all of our sponsors, in-kind donations,and culinary vendors are so important!  All food, entertainment and auction items are donated with the confidence that 100% goes to the zoo and enhancing our community programming.  

MM: How can the community get involved with both Rendez-Zoo and the Henry Vilas Zoo as a whole?
LB: The Henry Vilas Zoo was created in memoriam in 1904 by William F and Anna M Vilas for their youngson who had died due to complications from diabetes, with the stipulation that no admission be charged.  It is our responsibility to keep this vision intact while maintaining and delivering a best-in-class experience for the animals and visitors.  With the help of the community and their ongoing generosity, Madison has a truly unique gem that very few communities in the United States can offer.  
We look forward to the success of this event and growing it year by year and providing the community with a summer experience not to be missed!

Rendez-Zoo will be held on June 4th at the Henry Vilas Zoo. For more information visit