Halloween-5.jpg

Raigen Sumrall, 19, a Santa Fe College zoology student, dresses as King Louie from “The Jungle Book” during Santa Fe’s Boo at the Zoo for Halloween on Monday afternoon. According to Santa Fe President Jackson Sasser, Boo at the Zoo happens every year on Halloween and draws about 6,000 attendees.

Taylor Cook / Alligator Staff

Thousands of candy-craving, costume-clad children went trick-or-treating at the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo on Monday.

At Santa Fe’s 22nd-annual Boo at the Zoo, about 6,000 kids and their parents walked a mile-long trail through the zoo, collecting free candy from dressed-up gatekeepers.

The trail was transformed into 14 themed areas, including “Toy Story,” “Jurassic Park,” “Scooby Doo” and “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”

Dressed as a sorceress, 9-year-old Lily Ho walked along the trail in awe that her favorite fictional characters seemed to be coming to life.

“I liked the villains,” the third-grader said. “I saw Maleficent and Ursula. There was also like a squirrel monkey.”

The event was conceived by students in Santa Fe’s Zoo Animal Technology Program more than two decades ago as a way to give back to the community. In place of an admission fee, attendees were asked to donate a single canned good. The cans collected were then given to Gainesville Harvest and Catholic Charities, which feed students and families in need, said Jade Salamone, a conservation education specialist at Santa Fe.

“We give a magical Halloween experience to kids, and we are also helping the community by donating canned goods,” Salamone said.

Some of the zoo’s animals — a baby box turtle and Asian small-clawed otters among the lot — greeted guests at the event, which also featured performances by Danscompany of Gainesville and a play area sponsored by Fun 4 Gator Kids.

“I love this event,” said Kathy Stewart, the founder and owner of Fun 4 Gator Kids. “I’ve come every year since my kids were little — this is great.”