Nearly 9,000, Dakota Electric Association members and their families attended the company’s 17th annual Member Appreciation Event at the Minnesota Zoo on July 31 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 2,440 pounds of food along with $791 in cash. The food donations were the second largest amount since Dakota Electric began collecting food, and the cash was the most ever received.

“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 13 tons of food and nearly $9,000 to the local food shelves.

At the Member Appreciation Event at the zoo, cooperative members enjoyed the BIG BUGS! exhibit, where they had an up-close look at larger than life animatronic bugs. Zoo visitors saw many other exhibits, 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. Members can see photographs from the event on the company’s Facebook page. Also, members can submit photographs to the photo contest through August 10. Voting for photography contest winners starts on August 12 and goes until August 24.

See more photos as well as entries in the photo contest at