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A record-setting crowd of 9,161 Dakota Electric Association members and their families attended the company’s 16th annual Member Appreciation Event at the Minnesota Zoo on July 25 from 4 to 8 p.m. During the event, zoo admission was free to all who purchase electricity from Dakota Electric, a member-owned cooperative.

As part of the event, Dakota Electric asked attendees to bring food donations for area food shelves, and visitors donated 2,355 pounds of food along with $769 in cash.

“People were very generous in giving food and cash donations this year, which will help feed a lot of people in this local area,” President and CEO Greg Miller said. “Dakota Electric is a not-for-profit electric cooperative, so this member-only event is our way of showing our appreciation to our members.”

Since Dakota Electric began collecting food at the event, Dakota Electric’s members have donated more than 12 tons of food and nearly $8,000 to the local food shelves.

At the Member Appreciation Event at the zoo, cooperative members enjoyed the returning AFRICA! exhibit. Zoo visitors also got to see two new penguins in the penguin display, along with many other exhibits and fun things to do, including Russia’s Grizzly Coast, the Minnesota Trail, Tiger Lair, World of Birds Show, monorail rides, the Woodland Adventure Playground and more. Zoo visitors were also entertained with music by the Barbary Coast Dixieland Band and close-up magic performed by Bob Miller. Louie the Lightning Bug was on hand for added fun for the children, and many people enjoyed discounted tickets to the IMAX.

Some zoo-goers paid an additional fee to visit the DINOSUARS! exhibit, where they walked a trail and saw a variety of animatronic dinosaurs up close. To see photos from the event or see those entered in the photo contest, visit Dakota Electric’s Facebook page.