Thousands attend Dia de la Familia at Fresno Chaffee Zoo (video)

The Fresno BeeAugust 24, 2014 

Daniel Nava watched commercials on Univision for weeks promoting the Spanish-language television station's Dia de la Familia event at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. The 3-year-old wanted to go.

His father, also named Daniel, packed the family up for a day with the animals alongside thousands of other Central Valley residents who attended the station's annual family day at the zoo on Sunday.

"He's been wanting to come," said the elder Nava, who lives with his family in Fresno. "It's nice. There's food and some of the concerts going on. We like it all."

By midafternoon, more than 6,200 people visited the zoo where nonprofit and community organizations set up informational booths and spin-the-wheel games for free prizes.

Parking inside Roeding Park was closed for a couple of hours Sunday afternoon, forcing families to park along neighborhood streets and busy Belmont Avenue and then walk into the park.

The family day "has been going on for over 12 years," said German Amezcua, the station's operation manager. It is one of two events Univision hosts at the zoo every year, he said.

The other event, Fiesta de los Niños, is Kids Day held in April, which attracts an even larger crowd.

Live mariachi music floated out of the bird show theater as families slowly traveled from exhibit to exhibit. The giraffes attracted a large crowd around lunchtime.

Omar Vargas of Fresno, 18, helped his little brother, Carlos Melendes, 4, feed a piece of lettuce to a giraffe. The family didn't know it was a special family day.

"It's been a while since we've been to the zoo," Vargas said. "Parking was a big deal."

But it was worth it to show Carlos all his favorite animals.

Asked if he was scared of the giraffe, he shook his head no.

What's his favorite animal? The monkey, Vargas said.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6495, blee@fresnobee.com or @bonhialee on Twitter.

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