Photo by Erika Fleegle

Guests at the National Aviary’s 13th annual Night in the Tropics event danced the night away to the sounds of Noël Quintana & The Latin Crew on July 11, 2015.

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by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle
by Erika Fleegle

By Erika Fleegle

The National Aviary brought a little Latin flair during its annual Night in the Tropics fundraiser July 11.

The evening, themed as a Feathered Fiesta, began with a VIP reception as guests filed into the Allegheny Center space and were greeted by all sorts of feathered friends. Exhibits were open as usual, though some birds not usually displayed to the public made an appearance, including owls, Conure parrots, and hawks, attached to the arms of handlers.

For a more awe-inspiring experience, a flight show occurred twice during the evening, with aviary staff showcasing the flight patterns and particularities of ravens, vultures, and eagles.

Following the first flight show, the aviary’s executive director, Cheryl Tracy, was joined by event co-chairs Jane Dixon and Happy the African penguin, who collectively welcomed patrons to enjoy the rest of the evening.

The parking lot and adjacent rose garden had been transformed into the perfect tropical oasis in the middle of the Allegheny Center, with brightly colored tables, tents and decorations cropping up like hibiscus flowers. Noël Quintana & The Latin Crew kept guests grooving in the rose garden, while DJ Loyal and members of local dance company Salsa 412 provided salsa dancing demonstrations and lessons in the outdoor lot.

Inside, guests mingled with flamingos inside the Helen M. Schmidt FliteZone Theater and later witnessed a feeding of the aviary’s Malayan Flying Foxes. The flamingos are a fun experience for the attendees, Laura Smith noted, though the flamingos have their share of the fun as well.

“The flamingos really like the guests that have long, sparkly, dangly jewelry. It gets really entertaining,” Smith said.

Many guests that evening were first-timers to the event, though the aviary held a special place in many guests’ hearts.

“I met my wife here,” said Johno Prascak, a local artist whose work has been exhibited at the aviary since October 2014.  “It’s the first time we’ve been to this event, but we love the aviary. We support everything they do.”

As the evening drew to a close, guests waited eagerly for the winning raffle tickets to be drawn. Two large prizes were up for grabs in a trip for two to Hawaii and a luxury box for a Pirates game complete with other certificates from local companies valued at $5,400. Other prizes were available through a silent auction.

As guests continued to spin and sway to salsa music, members of the National Aviary’s board reflected on the success of the evening.

“This has been fantastic,” Dixon said. “This is my eighth year working with this event, and I’ve loved seeing it grow.”

The National Aviary’s Night at the Tropics boasted a record attendance of 1250 patrons – up nearly 200 attendees since last year.