Hundreds come to 4th annual block party
July 18, 2012
By Sebastian Moraga
With a smile that could light up a stadium, Natalie Clavero welcomed a new best friend onto her lap.
“You can always tell when she’s excited,” said Natalie’s stepmom Laura, holding the 10-year-old girl’s hand so she could rub the fur on a live bunny.
Natalie did not say a word, as her cerebral palsy keeps her from talking. But the way she stretched her arms and torso, plus the thousand-watt smile made it clear that this was not just another day for her.
This was the fourth annual North Bend Downtown Block Party, a day where smiles like Clavero’s could be found on children from the Valley and beyond.
The petting zoo was one attraction at the event, which once again gathered crowds in the center of town, to enjoy games, music, food, contests and booths.
Artists filled a long schedule of concerts, from noon to 10 p.m., with acts like Valley musicians Future Jazz Heads All-Stars and headliners Spike and the Impalers.
When it came to kiddie stuff, though, nothing could dampen the draw of the petting zoo. Not even the puffy balls rocketing off a giant slingshot, located right next to the petting zoo.
That’s what happens, John Connolly, owner of Issaquah-based Animal Encounters said, when you have live bunnies. Nothing trumps the shy carrot-eaters.
“We could have a unicorn and nobody would pay attention to it because we have baby rabbits.”
Children braved the location of the petting zoo for a chance to see the rabbits, chickens, wallabies and other critters.
One of them was Superman.
“We call him Superman because when we rescued him he was so thin,” said Kim Connolly, John’s wife, of a large rodent called a Patagonian cavy. “He needed a coat and the only coat was red and it draped over his body, and when he slept, he slept with his arms straight out.”
The cavy is now almost half-a-year old. They live to be about 10 to 12 years old, Kim said. Exotic as he was, he still fell behind in popularity from the bunnies and other more kid-savvy animals.
“The chickens hatched in the classroom,” said Kim, a teacher. “So they have been around kids, literally, since the moment they were born.”
Most of the children around the animals July 14 had only seen animals like these in books, Kim said.
“This is not Natalie’s first time at a petting zoo, but it’s the first time she has had that much interaction with the animals,” Laura said.
On the other hand, the Connollys have plenty of interaction with animals. Besides the petting zoo, they hold presentations at local schools of reptiles, invertebrates and other animals.
“It’s definitely a lot of work,” said John who added some animals need a lot of attention. Still, people like Natalie and her pearly whites make it all worthwhile.
“It’s my reward,” he said, “to have a job that makes people happy.”
And Natalie was happy, said Laura, no question about it.
“Her eyes light up and her arms straighten and she’ll try to stand,” Laura said. “You just learn to read it in her expression.”