Phanatic turns 'red' at Philly Zoo

Phanatic turns 'red' at Philly Zoo

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies couldn't have picked a more fitting way to begin their week-long "Paint The Town Red" celebration.

During the first event held on Monday on the Impala Lawn at the Philadelphia Zoo, the Phillie Phanatic took his shirt off, put on a pair of goggles and was hoisted on a crane, courtesy of Capital Manufacturing, and dunked into a huge red can of MAB paint. The Phanatic Safe Formula turned the green mascot into a shade of bright cheery red.

"Daddy, he looks different," one boy said.

"Different is good, because it will be good luck," the boy's father responded.

Before the Phanatic even arrived on a train, hundreds of children showed up on a picturesque day with clear blue skies and proceeded to have their faces painted. All children 14 and under who wore red to the zoo received a free ticket to Verizon Kids Opening Day for the Dodgers-Phillies game on April 8 at 3:05 p.m. ET.

Several representatives of the Philadelphia Zoo had the kids gather around while they talked about and displayed several animals. They answered questions about the animals and even invited the kids to participate.

In keeping with the red theme, the animals all had some type of red associated with them.

There was a red-tailed hawk, a red rooster and even a red-tailed boa constrictor. The Phanatic was brave enough to stick his tongue out at the boa constrictor.

Greg Hammell, public programs manager at the Philadelphia Zoo, said it was a pleasure to partner with the Phillies for this event.

"It's not only an opportunity to work with one of our corporate partners -- and we've had a great partnership with them -- it's also a good opportunity to teach kids about the use of colors," Hammell said. "We can teach kids about all the different uses of colors. Teaching the kids about the animals and the use of colors is great."

Several kids were curious where the Phanatic lived at the zoo. Obviously, he has his own home.

If the Phanatic were to reside at the zoo, where would that be?

"The Phanatic has feathers on his tail, so we've always assumed the Phanatic is a bird, which means the Phanatic would probably live in the bird cage," Hammell said.

Hundreds of kids began arriving long before the Phanatic turned red. They ran to the table to have their faces painted and most of them donned Phillies shirts or had mini-Phanatic dolls.

A group of 21 kids in the kindergarten class at J.S. Jenks School in Chestnut Hill couldn't wait for this event.

"They were ready since last Friday," said the kids' teacher, Ms. Tish. "That's all they've been talking about."

When the kids first noticed the Phanatic riding on the train with a huge paint brush, they screamed and cheered as if they were in midseason form.

"For one day, the Phillie Phanatic will be king of the jungle," Scott Palmer, Phillies director of media and public affairs, told the crowd.

"The Phanatic is the king of my jungle," said a happy 6-year-old Phillies fan named John. "He's the best."

The Phanatic posed for pictures with the kids and then had the children follow him in a conga line around the Impala Lawn.

"The Phillies are doing a great thing with this event and all the events this week," said one mother of two girls, who asked not to be identified. "They're really reaching out to the community. I think it's fantastic."

The "Paint The Town Red" week continues Tuesday at City Hall, where Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, the National League Rookie of the Year winner for 2005, will be recognized for his achievements by Philadelphia Mayor John Street.

A banner will also be raised in Howard's honor on the north side of City Hall. The banner will be autographed by Howard and donated as an auction item to the Mural Arts Program for their annual fundraiser Wall Ball, to be held on April 26 in the Crystal Tea Room at the Wanamaker Building.

When told about Howard being honored, several kids got very excited.

"He's really awesome," said Jimmy, a 7-year-old fan. "I hope he hits 50 home runs this year. Maybe if the Phanatic stays red, he will hit 50 homers."

Andy Jasner is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.