Donna Turns 50!

Donna, the oldest living hippo in captivity, had her 50th Birthday Party in July 2001, and The Hippolotofus were there!



Here is the story as told by Debbie Grove, Carol "Hippo Annie" Rosser and Cindy "CinD" Dodds

Gary and I left Friday morning and got to Becky's house in Champaign around noon. Her and her husband were very nice and welcomed us into their wonderful condo with open arms. Although her collection has been considerably weeded out, the ones that she has decided to keep are AWESOME. She has mentioned her love of cookie jars. Well, that was apparent from the display cases filled with them. She has Bubbles, the Brush with the monkey on the hippos back, 3 Abingdon ones (in better shape than I've ever seen on e-bay), and tons more. She knows the story behind each and every one. She also has several wonderful one-of-a-kind, made especially for her hippo pieces. I especially loved one on her living room floor, which reminded me of a "GIANT" limoges box. Becky knows exactly which one it

After looking at her collection, we had to leave to meet CinD and Denny to continue on to Evansville. Upon arriving at her house, I saw the big hippo that she had mentioned to me. We had to wait a few minutes for them, and when they arrived and asked if we had seen the hippo, I told Denny that we had tried to steal around 300 lbs., that wasn't happening.

I quickly viewed her new ones (all wonderful) and didn't even remember seeing a lot of the old ones...soooo overwhelming when I had first stopped by.

Anyhoo, we left for Evansville. About 11 miles out of town, I spotted a place that had concrete statues. I made Gary turn around and we all headed back there. It was around 7:30. As we got out of the car to look, CinD said, "Oh yeah, I forgot that this store has the same "GIANT" hippo that I have at my house. The store was closed, but there was a house next door. So, of course, not wanting to leave that hippo behind, I knocked on the door. The guy was hesitant, but I told him how far I came for it, and he agreed to get the fork-lift out and load it into the car. WOO, WOO. CinD and I also picked up smaller concrete hippos as long as we were there.

We arrived at the hotel around 8:30. Upon checking in, we received specially prepared packages from the zoo. In the bag was info on Evansville, maps, playing cards, etc. There also was this amazing stainless steel hippo made especially for Donna's 50th b-day. How cool was that.

Got upstairs, called Sue's room, invited her up. CinD and Denny also came up. Around 10:30 I got a call from Carol Rosser (Hippo Annie to most of us) and invited her up. I had never met her, and I'm sure some of you form opinions as to how somebody looks, that you have talked to for so long. Well, I opened the door, expecting this 50 year old or so woman....Guess again. She was tall, and much younger than I had thought...I won't reveal her age...ask her if you want to know.

Anyway, we all hung out together until almost 1 when we all decided that if we were going to be at the zoo by 8:30, we had better get some shut-eye. 

Okay, so if you thought this e-mail was long, just wait until you get the next one about the actual zoo visit....LOL. Just to tease you a little, we got to get up real close and personal with Donna.


Saturday morning after breakfast, we met in the parking lot about 8:15. To my surprise, Alice from Houston had arrived the night before also, and was joining us at the zoo. We all (except Sue B - not a morning person) headed to the zoo. It didn't open until 9:00, but we wanted to make sure we got in right away. While waiting in line, we ran across Denise Ruffin from Evansville. She had volunteered for the day and so would not be hanging around with us. As soon as we were "let in", we stopped to buy a few T-shirts, and headed to the Hospitality Center. They had a huge spread of food, which we would later return to. We (Hippolotofus members) were given purple wrist bands, so they would know who we were. 

We then headed off to see "Donna", the b-day girl. There were already loads of people there when we showed up. We ran in to Teresa as soon as we got there, and she welcomed us back with open arms. They had a table set up for Save The Hippos, and had all of the b-day cards from last year and this year that had been sent. They had tables set up with posterboards of pics of Donna. The first one I saw was of Donna and Bunny (her elephant pal that got shipped out of state a few years ago) swimming in the pool together. It was such an awesome sight, it actually brought tears to my eyes...ask CinD. They had a huge card laid out for everybody to sign b-day wishes to Donna. By the end of the day, there was barely any room left. They had b-day cakes (5 or 6 of them) wishing Donna a happy b-day. They would be cut at 1:00. We hung around for a while visiting with Donna and waiting for Sue to show up. When she finally showed up, she told me she had run in to someone in the parking lot who knew me....Margaret from California. She had been visiting her parents in Indianapolis, and postponed going back to CA, in order to make it to the B-day party. What a great surprise it was to see her again. She didn't really get to spend too much time with us, because she had her parents with her, but, it was still fun getting to see her again.

We (CinD, Carol and I - and spouses) decided to walk around the rest of the zoo, because we wanted to make sure we were back for the cutting of the cake. Sue stayed back with Donna, selling the Save The Hippo buttons. She sold all of them. Woo, woo. We stopped first to check out the items for the auction, to be held at 2:00. There were lots of hippo items. Tickets were 25/piece, and you could buy as many or as few as you wanted. They had buckets next to each item, and you could put any amount of tickets in the buckets of your choice. There were three items that I desperately wanted, and lo and behold, I ended up with them. Margaret also had bought tickets and asked me if I could keep an eye on them for her because she wasn't going to be around for the auction. Well, congrats Margaret. I don't know how many buckets you put tickets in, but you won several items. I will try to pack them up and ship them out later in the week.

We walked the entire zoo in 93 degree heat and humidity (105 with the heat index). The zoo is very hilly, along the lines of San Diego, although there aren't bathrooms along the way. We again ran into Denise, who extended an invitation to drop by her house later that night. At the booth she was attending, there was a hippo sand sculpture (pics to follow) that we almost made collapse...don't ask.

At one, we went back to see Donna, and the place was packed. Last year for her B-day, about 200 people were at the zoo. On Saturday, they had approximately 4000....what a difference we made in a year. I think I can safely say that we (the Hippolotofus and Save The Hippos) had a big part in their decision to make such a big deal out of a hippos B-day. I also must credit Teresa (Donna's keeper), who did a great job organizing the entire thing. It was an amazing sight and sound to see and hear everybody singing happy B-day to her. After the cakes were cut, the place started thinning out a lot. Guess we know who the true hippo lovers really are. Of course, both Cindy (sorry for blabbing) and I cried while singing happy was just so overwhelming. Right after people started leaving, in walks this guy with a great hippo T-shirt. It was none other than fellow Hippolotofus member Larry Meyer. What a surprise that was too. He hung out with us for a while, but then had to be heading back to KY. 

At 2, we headed down to the auction and hung around there for a few took a little longer then they thought. But, it was worth it to me as you already know.

We were then asked to come back to see Donna at around 4. We did, and were given a back stage tour. Teresa was going to try to let us touch her, but when she approached Donna to test her out, she gave a few signals meaning that she was tired out for the day, and didn't want to be touched. However, being so close, with no bars between us was unbelievable (yes, pics of that to follow too). Sue, who had been able to touch Donna last year had told me that it really is scarier then you would think. She was absolutely right. When Teresa opened the cage, and told us to go in, I was just a bit apprehensive, but was the first one in. We hung out with her for about 20 minutes. Donna could barely keep her eyes open by then. She would occasionally open them, just to see if we were still there. After we left, she came out of her pool to eat, and we got some great butt shots (Cathy, thought of you).

We stayed until the zoo closed at 5:00. We had the most awesome time.

After showering, we caravanned (sp?) down to Denise's house and saw her collection. She was a very gracious hostess. Thanks again Denise. We then decided to go out to dinner to this wonderful steak place that we had been to last year. However, upon arriving there, the building had been torn down, and they had moved. After getting terrible directions, we decided to eat somewhere near the hotel. Afterwards, the girls (Sue, CinD and Carol) came back to my room and we chatted some more and traded hippos. 

We left the next morning, to try and beat the traffic.

I hope I haven't bored you guys to tears. I just wish that you all could have been there. I had such a wonderful time. I can't wait for Orlando in October. See you there.

July 9, 2001

(Hippo Annie)
Hi all! I am "finally" home! I am so tired but I just had to say hi and tell you all that meeting Donna up close and visiting with the other hippo lovers in the group who went to Indiana was just sooooo totally awesome! I had the most fun! What a great bunch of hippo people! We really do have some wonderful people in this group, and I am so glad I was able to go and meet with them. I can't add much to all that Debo said, she described the day perfectly. With one exception, she failed to mention how much the rest of us wanted the items she and Margaret won off the raffle! :) But I'm just glad that it was won by someone from our group. Someone who would truly appreciate the hippo things they won! I just wish it could have been moi! I did win a couple of things though! I won a hippo figurine (really cute, lying down) and a souvenir Donna the hippo bank! So cute, it had a pink hula hippo on it!  

Thanks so much to Teresa for taking us back stage to meet Donna personally! Poor Donna was so tired. She had had a full day of partying! She let us know right up front that she was tired and didn't want to be bothered! We reeeeaaaalllly wanted to touch her, but we respected her snorts and wiggling ears warning us we better not! I think she just would have gone under water and not come back out till we left if we had tried to get any closer. She was sooooo beautiful! And yes, Debo and CinD both cried during the "Happy Birthday" song! I was overcome by goose bumps! It was really moving! Ya know, I was even interviewed by one of the local tv news reporters! I was so excited about Donna that I forgot to be shy and I just rambled on and on and on. Well, I didn't make the news. All those cute sweet little children did though, go figure! I guess I just talked too much and wasn't as cute as those little kids. But, I got the last laugh! I got to meet Donna personally!!!! So there, you dingy news reporter!  

Anyway, I had a blast. Thank you Denise for inviting us into your home to see your collection. I know you were busy trying to get packed to go out of town.  It was so great to meet everyone and put faces to the emails! Thankfully I was not 50 or so like Debo had thought I would be, even though there are days I feel 100 or so! Especially Sat. after walking up and down those hills at the zoo in the heat several times all day long! But it was well worth it. I have basically the same pics as Debo, so I don't really have any to add except the one with Me close to Donna! :) I am going to try to attach it. Let me know if it comes through! 

After Evansville, my sweet husband (he tolerated the all day heat at the zoo for me) and I went to St. Louis and spent 2 nights there. That was nice, but more walking! We went up in the arch and on the President Casino Riverboat. Nope, didn't win a penny, but lost several! I am just not  a gambler. I'm better at spending my money on things that I can bring home with me, like HIPPOS! I can't stand the thought of just throwing money away like that (on the machines). Of course there are times when my sweetie thinks I have thrown my money away on hippos. But, I think he understands the full extent of my love of hippos after Donna's party! :) After St. Louis, we came home for one night, then went to Ft Worth to bring home my dog. She stayed with my brother-in-law all week. We stayed the night and just got home tonight. I finally made it through the emails and am ready to sleep for the next few days before my kids come home! 

Well, I am soooo tired, as you can see I am rambling. So I will go for now. Again, I can't say it enough how much fun I had in Evansville and how great it was to meet Debo, Gary, Sue B (& family), Cindy, Denny, Teresa, Alice, Margaret, Larry, Denise, & Laura (oh, yeah, somehow we missed seeing you, Laura) But, glad you were able to make it there. Wish we could have run into you too. I know Debo yelled out "Laura" ever so often just to see if you would hear us. :) Well, again, I'm going to bed. E-ya'll later! 

Huge Hippo Hugs and Slurpys! 

Hippo Annie (Carol, way under 50 years old!) :)
July 13, 2001

Cindy Dodds
It was all VERY exciting and it was SO great to spend time with hippo friends, new and old! I met Sue last year, and it was fun talking with her again. We spotted Margaret from CA briefly -just long enough for her to place winning tickets in all the raffles I wanted (Debo won the others I wanted)! LOL Denny and I have visited Debo and Gary many times now, and it's ALWAYS a pleasure to get together with them! It was GREAT to meet Carol, who is very sweet, and her husband -- who did VERY well for a non-hippo person! Denny and I sat with them at dinner on Saturday and had a pleasant talk. We also hung together at the zoo (which you could tell by the photos). They were a lot of fun! We also met Denise and her family (thanks again for the hippo tour of your home - hope you had a safe trip to MS!), Alice from Houston (we met in the hotel lobby when I recognized the STH tshirt!), Larry from KY (noticed his hippo shirt and we started talking), and our new member Brandi from TN (Denny actually met and talked with her outside Donna's enclosure and told her about our group before any of us got a chance to meet her - glad to see you've joined the group, Brandi!). Sorry we never found Laura - I can vouch for the fact Debo called you many times throughout the zoo. LOL

A HUGE thank you to Theresa and the Evansville Zoo! They treated us like royalty and everyone who worked there was sooo nice!! Theresa, thank you again for the once in a lifetime experience of seeing Donna up close, REAL close, with no bars. Theresa even let me get some hay for Donna! She asked for some measurement of hay which equaled an armful, but being the city girl I am, I didn't know and gave her only a handful. DUH!! I was allowed to correct my error and got to get 2 armfuls of hay for Donna's dinner! I was thrilled when Donna got out and ate it after we left her pool area. =] So thrilled, in fact, that Theresa had to drag me away from the enclosure so she could go home...

All and all it was a GREAT day! Even though you all weren't with us in body, your SPIRIT was definitely felt! I'm sure Donna felt all the love coming to her from around the globe!!


Here is Donna and Teresa


Pictures by Debbie and Gary Grove

From left to right: me, Carol (hippo Annie), CinD and Alice (from Houston).



This is just one of the cakes for Donna.


Carol, me and CinD with Donna the hippo...not the real


This is Donna, happily having her gums massaged by Teresa.


Denise, me, Carol and CinD with the sand sculptures.


Carol, Sue B., me, Cindy and Larry in front of Donna's cage.


CinD and I getting up close and personal with Donna.



Butt shot


Signed card from "everybody".


Pictures by Hippo Annie




Carol "Hippo Annie" Rosser




Carol, CinD, ???, Debo




Carol signing the giant poster card for Donna


Carol and Donna the Birthday Girl


Debo and Carol at the Hippo Display





A standing room only crowd for Donna's birthday


a mural at the Mesker Zoo


the birthday girl
isn't she a beauty!


Here are some pictures of Donna with Teresa, her keeper



Here is the t-shirt the zoo sold to commemorate Donna's Big 50




Here is the invitation mailed out to hippo lovers around the world by Teresa Williams, Donna's keeper


Here is the original (email) invitation we received from Donna's Zoo...


Greetings fellow hippo lovers! My name is Laurie Liggett and I am a docent at Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden in Evansville, IN. I am also chairman of an extra special event at our zoo this summer. "Donna" our hippo dame is going to be 50 years old this July. She is now the oldest hippo in the world in captivity. We think that this is something to celebrate! So her keepers Teresa Williams and John Stuteville along with the rest of the docent gang are going to throw "Donna the Hippo's 50th Birthday Bash!"

It is going to be a celebration of long and healthy life. We are going to combine a health fair with a birthday carnival atmosphere to celebrate big. There will be a hippo sand sculpture, Hippo info center, a happy birthday singalong (This means free cake) and lots of games and contests going on all day long. There will also be an auction of hippo and other donated items. Teresa and John will also be demonstrating Donna, her care, feeding and handling. They brush this hippo's teeth and she loves it.

Donna is an extremely amiable hippo and she loves all the attention that is lavished on her. We invite you and all your hippo lovin' friends to visit our zoo on July 7, Saturday, 9am - 5pm. Evansville is the most southwest city in Indiana. It's going to be fun! This is an excellent chance to meet other hippo freaks, uh, I mean enthusiasts. Someone had the excellent idea of all of us wearing brown arm bands so that we would know each other. Hope you can make it! Please forward this to all the hippo people you know. See you all there!

Laurie Liggett.




if you would like to add any information to this page, please email