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Spotlight: Zoostock’s ‘Last Hurrah’

Monday will mark the 20th — and final — anniversary of Zoostock, the Lansford festival which has raised literally hundreds of thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society.

Billed as “The Last Hurrah,” Zoostock will be held from noon to 8 p.m. on the Sports Zoo grounds at 390 W. Snyder Ave.

Zoostock is held on Labor Day each year. It was founded by Jesse Hiles, owner of the Sports Zoo.

Hiles said 21 years ago, he had a picnic at the Sports Zoo grounds on Labor Day because it was such a quiet day with not much happening. The picnic was so well accepted that some bands which played at the Sports Zoo offered to perform at the picnic.

Hiles said he was concerned that the music from the bands would be loud and unappreciated by neighbors, so he decided to have the picnic again with the proceeds going to a charitable cause.

That cause was the American Cancer Society.

Since the event was held 20 years after the famous Woodstock Festival in New York, Coaldale resident Don Mantz coined the phrase “Zoo­stock” for the picnic by Hiles.

The first Zoostock was put together in 1999 by Hiles, his sister-in-law Lisa Hiles and local disc jockey Ann Marie Calabrese.

Lisa Hiles said that in the past 19 years, Zoostock and its accompanying events such as a Putt-and-Brew Mini Golf tournament have raised a total of $319,000 for the local chapter of the American Cancer Society.

She said that while Zoostock is coming to an end, there will be something to take its place. An announcement will be made at Zoo­stock on Monday regarding plans for the new event.

“Keep your Labor Days open,” said Calabrese, referring to the new event.

Lisa said there are plenty of volunteers for Zoostock and it continues to be a success. She said, “The crux of it is, in order to do something new, you need to change things.”

One of the trademarks of Zoo­stock is the sale of tie-dyed T-shirts that are unique with each year’s festival.

The annual Zoostock kickoff begins Thursday with the sale of the T- shirts from 8-11 p.m. at the Sports Zoo.

There also will be a frozen T-shirt contest and a live radio broadcast on FM Station Magic 105.5 by Calabrese with “Polka Joe.”

Thursday will also be the last chance for dropping off prize donations that will be raffled-off at Zoostock.

Every year the T-shirts have a different color and theme. Jesse said the shirts are so popular that on any day you can see people walking around the area wearing one from a past year.

Lisa said the T-shirt sale is the biggest money-raiser for Zoostock. She said sponsors pay for the cost of the T- shirts and all proceeds from the sale will go to the Cancer Society.

The money raised from Zoostock is presented at the Cancer Society’s annual telethon in April. This marks the 40th year for the telethon, which is aired on Blue Ridge Communication TV 13.

Joe Krushinsky, a volunteer with Zoostock and a founder of the telethon, said he understands the need for change with Zoostock.

“It is in our group’s nature to change things up,” he said.

“People who think we, the American Cancer Society, have been the same for 39 years should take a closer look.”

He said Jim Collins, author of the book “Good to Great,” said the best organizations and companies go from being just good to being great by preserving the core purpose and then innovating.

Krushinsky indicated the replacement event for Zoostock will still be musically oriented, but he declined to elaborate.

Lisa said the first Zoostock in 1999 raised $1,000 for the American Cancer Society. She said the highest amount raised was in 2018 with $26,000.

Last year Zoostock donated $18,500 to the Cancer Society.

She has an ambitious goal for this year’s event. She’s hoping that Zoo­stock can raise $21,000.

She said since $319,000 was raised in the first 19 years, so $21,000 would bring that total of $350,000.

“I don’t know if it can be done, but I’m hoping,” she said.

What is Zoostock?

Zoostock is a free, outdoor musical festival held every year on Labor Day at the Sports Zoo in Lansford.

It is a family event which benefits the local chapter of the American Cancer Society. It’s run totally by volunteers. All the bands which perform volunteer their service.

There are activities for the children including face painting.

Ann Marie Calabrese, a coordinator, said, “Bring a chair or blanket. Stay all day.”

Zoostock is held from noon to 8 p.m. There is free parking.

Final year

Jesse Hiles, Lisa Hile and Calabrese, who have planned Zoostock since its inception, said this year is the 20th anniversary and it will be the final event.

Posters advertising Zoostock bill it as “The Last Hurrah.”

Another Labor Day event will be taking Zoostock’s place and that it will continue to be held on Labor Day each year.

No other information was released on the replacement event.

An announcement on what will follow Zoostock will be made at Monday’s event.

Bands performing

Bands taking part in this year’s Zoo­stock are:

• Lyle Mantz.

• The 3 of Us.


• Free Range Folk.

• Mystery City.

• Shellshocked Churchills.

• The Local Boys.

• Another Day Dawns.

Holding facsimile checks showing amounts raised from prior year Zoostock festivals in Lansford are, from left, Jesse Hiles, Ann Marie Calabrese and Lisa Hiles. Zoostock will be held Monday from noon to 8 p.m. on the Sports Zoo grounds. This is the 20th anniversary of Zoostock and will be the last of this fundraising event. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
This year’s Zoostock logo