By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Rett Peek | Hair by Thunder Crump with Face Your Day Salon | Makeup by Aaron Perkins with Face Your Day Salon | Wardrobe from Lila Ashmore with Vesta’s and Kim Hamric with Dillard’s | Shot on location at the Little Rock Zoo
Lisa Buehler believes “everything in moderation except for AWESOME” is the perfect philosophy. She adds, “You can never have too much AWESOME!” This optimistic truism is certainly a part of what makes her one of the Capital City’s most beloved civic leaders. She attends countless events each season and shares this enthusiastic approach to civic leadership at nearly every encounter. As Chairman of the Arkansas Zoological Foundation, Lisa will welcome guests to Wild Wines – two evenings at the zoo where patrons are encouraged to party with the animals + support the Little Rock Zoo.
A Kansas City native, Lisa’s Midwestern charm is undeniable. Friends describe her as “fun-loving, faithful and fabulous,” according to Little Rock Zoo Director Susan Altrui. “Her leadership and commitment to the zoo are invaluable. As an advocate, Lisa’s dedication is unparalleled. She has this special way of working the zoo into casual conversations and creating interest in the all that the Little Rock Zoo has to offer.”
Lisa’s adoration for animals developed throughout her childhood when her family visited the Kansas City Zoo. “When you go to the zoo – you not only get to see the animals in a real and personal environment, but also learn about conservation. Most people would not get to see an elephant, a tiger, a bear or other wild animals if it were not for a zoo.” She instilled that appreciation in her daughter and shares the experience with her grandchildren at the Little Rock Zoo. As a former docent at the Little Rock Zoo, she introduced Animal Ambassadors to students throughout the state. “I haven’t served as a docent in several years, but I always enjoyed taking animals to different schools. Watching children’s faces as they experienced a bird of prey in flight, or small reptiles and mammals, for the first time was my favorite. They were absolutely fascinated!”
Education is a critical component of the zoo’s mission. Susan notes the zoo’s accessibility is a factor in its continued success, “There’s always good news to share. With so much happening here, everyone can find a reason to visit and support the zoo.” Lisa adds, “Since 1926, the Little Rock Zoo has provided a place for people to connect with nature. Connecting with nature encourages an appreciation for wildlife and a respect of all living things. It is also one of the state’s most visited tourist attractions, welcoming more than 300,000 visitors each year.”
Presented by the Arkansas Zoological Foundation, Wild Wines features 250 wonderful wines from O’ Looney’s Wine & Liquor + light bites from more than 40 restaurants. This festive fare will be complemented by the wildest entertainment in town. Patrons are encouraged to mix and mingle with Little Rock Zoo Animal Ambassadors and docents who serve as hosts throughout the zoo. “What started out as a small wine and food sampling at our café has evolved into a two night event that is equal parts fun and educational,” explains Susan, “Offering exclusive opportunities to experience the animals in their home after hours and taking guests on a journey where our animals tell an important story.” The macaws, who recently joined the Animal Ambassador Program, will make their debut at Wild Wines. “Our new birds Samba, Isla and Calypso will all make special appearances both nights of Wild Wines for guests to meet and photograph. They are beautiful and truly spectacular!”
Proceeds from Wild Wines support new exhibits and educational programming. This year, the foundation will continue improvements to the Education Building. The Conservation Learning Center, at the Education Building, serves as a platform to demonstrate the value of conservation as well as the symbiotic partnerships of the natural world. It will include two areas: the Susan Jones Citizen Science Center for older children and the Laura P. Nichols Nature Nook for toddlers. Both will have learning areas about conservation that will encourage exploration and play.
For nearly three decades, the Buehlers have considered Arkansas home. “We want Central Arkansas to continue to be the best it can be. We support the community because it’s the right thing to do. Most people probably don’t realize the Little Rock Zoo is not fully funded by tax revenue from the City of Little Rock. It’s our responsibility to continue the Little Rock Zoo’s legacy of educational excellence that helps protect and preserve all animals.”
Special thanks to Little Rock Zoo Curator of Animal Ambassadors Hannah Baker.