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Independence Day fun at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Josie's avatar


Tuesday, July 08, 2008


The Fourth of July at the Aquarium of the Pacific was a busy day with lots of folks coming in and out and enjoying our 12,500 animals to celebrate the independence of our country. Several hundred also enjoyed a special Independence Day barbecue that was held on the front lawn during the evening hours. (Boy, I wish I’d had the time to indulge there, I can tell you that! It smelled so good!)

But anyway … I had a special job that day, which was to be on hand to represent our public relations and marketing folks, who took a well-deserved holiday to rest up and celebrate with their friends and families.

I didn’t need to be at the Aquarium until 3 p.m., but thought it best to arrive a few hours earlier in order to get a parking spot in the nearby parking structure that we use. It isn’t that I mind walking farther on my way to work, but at the end of the day, when I’m tired, walking all the way to a different parking structure is more than I can handle, if you know what I mean!

My main task was to handle the needs of the folks from KKJZ 88.1 FM, a non-profit jazz radio station that broadcasts out of nearby California State University, Long Beach, where, as it so happens, I attended college. They did a remote broadcast from our ‘surf shack,’ a small structure with a thatched roof that sits on our front plaza; the show aired beginning at 6 p.m., when the barbecue started, and ended with an 18-minute broadcast of patriotic music that ran in sync with a fireworks extravaganza in the harbor at 9 p.m.

Bubba, the radio host, interviewed me early in the show, to learn a little about our 10th Anniversary and our mission, which is to “instill a sense of wonder, respect, and stewardship for the Pacific Ocean, its inhabitants, and ecosystems.”

When I arrived at the Aquarium, I went to our security folks to check out a radio so that I could be in communication with Erica, Jan and others from operations, as well as with our guest services employees who helped me attend to the needs of Bubba and the radio engineers, Duncan, Burt, and John, as well as to Veronica and Denise, two other KKJZ representatives.

As I waited for the KKJZ folks to arrive, I hung out at the Will Call Desk on the front plaza. Our capable guest services staff did a superb job, always with smiles on their faces, providing excellent customer service to those who pre-purchased Aquarium tickets.

Since my work at the Aquarium does not regularly involve my staying out front, it was interesting to watch them at work, dealing with the public in such an efficient and courteous manner, making all those who pre-purchased tickets feel welcome.

The system they use to dispense tickets is quite efficient; the tickets await their buyers in envelopes, which are placed in a box in alphabetical order. They also refer to a list of those who are to pick up tickets, highlighting their names after obtaining identifications of the purchasers, who also are required to sign the envelopes to show that they received their tickets.

The day was hot and muggy, so the shade of the canopy above the Will Call Desk was quite welcome, and it wasn’t too bad because a breeze wafted through every now and again, so I must say that I was comfortable enough.

A little after 3 p.m. the KKJZ representatives, some with their families, started to arrive and I directed them to the surf shack so that they could start setting up their equipment. Veronica and Denise set up a table near the Will Call area, under the canopy, and chatted with our guests to promote KKJZ and talk to those interested in learning a little about joining the non-profit station as supporting members.

I grabbed my dinner in Café Scuba—I had a delicious panini, as people in the United States call them, but I must tell you that in Italian, panini is the plural word for sandwich, while the singular is panino. After dinner I bought a latte—another misnamed Italian drink, since latte means milk while caffè e latte is what the drink actually is called—at the coffee cart located under the blue whale sculpture that hangs from the ceiling in our Great Hall.

When I went to check on the guys in the surf shack, latte in hand, they started to tell me that they needed a light of some sort for when it got dark, but without skipping a beat they laid their eyes on the cup in my hand and, in almost the same breath, one of them gave me a puppy dog look and asked me where I had gotten it..

I offered to do a coffee run so they gave me money for mochas, and away I went. After I brought the mochas to them, the light completely forgotten, I was fortunate enough to have Denise remind me!

About half an hour into the broadcast, Bubba called me over for the interview, which I enjoyed immensely. Having been a public relations practitioner in my past, among other things, I’ve been interviewed by radio hosts before, so it was pretty easy to do.

For the rest of the evening I stayed with the Veronica and Denise, at the table under the canopy, checking up on Bubba and the others periodically to make sure that they had everything they needed at all times.

All in all, I must say, it was a great Fourth of July, even though, in essence, I actually had to work rather than go to a friend’s barbeque (she understood; I had committed to the Aquarium gig well in advance). Oh well, barbeques will come and go, but this was an opportunity to do something fun and different and allow me to help promote the need to protect our ocean as well as our land, for the good of the planet and all of humankind.

Plus, I was able to make some new friends along the way. I’m sure glad I volunteered to help out!

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Gilbert V. Ortiz

Friday, July 18, 2008 11:26 AM

I am planning a trip to the aquarium soon. I am disabled and use a walker,are there areas within the aquarium where i could sit and rest? thank you.

Josie's avatar


Friday, July 18, 2008 02:54 PM

Hi Gilbert!

Yes, we have benches scattered throughout certain portions of our exhibit halls, or right out at the front of them, plus we have various areas including the silver-toned chairs under the blue whale sculpture in our Great Hall, and outside near Shark Lagoon. Plus, we can always provide you with a wheelchair if you need one.

If you come in on a Tuesday, look me up. If I’m available, I would be happy to show you around a bit and give you a mini tour!

Take care, and do enjoy your visit, whenever you come to the Aquarium of the Pacific!


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