We tend to think of Zoos as theme-park attractions that bring in thousands of people and generate maybe millions of dollars a year in revenue. Heck, that’s probably true for many of the country’s best Zoos. The factual, business side of the matter is that many of our favorite Zoos are not only businesses, but ones that run on very small profit margins, or are run as non-profits.

Also, as is easily forgotten, Zoos work in ways far beyond what we see when a rogue chimp spits water out of his cage, or a giraffe cranes it’s neck to grab an illusive, luscious shred of food. The research and man-power that goes into the various conservation projects that many Zoos participate in cost untold amounts of money, which can be difficult for an organization that’s run as a non-profit to commonly have on-hand.

Recently, Waco’s Cameron Park Zoo launched a new photo-store, where a large portion of the proceeds will go directly to aiding the conservation and awareness projects that the Zoo itself holds very dear. Cameron Park Zoo is an AZA accredited (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) organization. AZA members spend $90 million dollars annually on 400 different conservation projects in over 100 different countries. Impressive, right? Kind of makes one feel guilty for wondering if the $8 souvenir soda cup is really worth it.

So, as you plan your weekend family excursions, or coordinate fun side-tips on your next vacation, keep in mind not only the Cameron Park Zoo, but be sure to return home and pick up a momento from your visit. It’ll mean a lot to you, but possibly even more to the animals you visited.

A true “best of texas” item is Dr Pepper soft drink. And, there’s a whole museum dedicated to the beverage in Waco.

Dr Pepper was “invented” at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store pharmacy in Waco by pharmacist – and part-time soda jerk – Dr. Charles Alderton. Alderton liked to mix up different carbonated drinks at the soda fountain. One day he hit upon the 23 flavor combination for what is now known as Dr Pepper and began serving it to some of his customers. The customers initially called the new drink a “Waco” for the city, of course. No one knows the exact date Dr Pepper was invented but the U.S. Patent Office says the drink was first served December 1, 1885 – making Dr Pepper the United States’ oldest soft drink that wasn’t root beer or ginger ale. Coca Cola didn’t come along until a year later, btw. Dr Pepper is now available all over the world – except in Thailand, Denmark, Italy and Russia.

There’s some dispute over how Dr Pepper got its name. One theory involves a love story – I’ll go with that one. The inventor gave the formula to his boss – Mr. Morrison. Morrison had been hopelessly in love with Dr Pepper’s daughter when he was a Virginia teenager. But, sadly, she wasn’t in love with him. And, the name was given to the soft drink to let her know, in a very public way, that he was still thinking about her.

Included in the museum is the original soda fountain where the discovery took place and the first bottling machine along with nearly 25,000 other Dr Pepper related materials. Not all of them are on display in the museum’s two floors, however. The most interesting thing was a display about how the company comes up with names for new sodas and packaging design. The museum even runs a day long student program in advertising and marketing – the Free Enterprise Institute – for 5th graders – getting them ready for “Risky Business” no doubt.

The museum has a store, naturally – where you can really be a pepper – you can get everything with the Dr Pepper logo – koosies, t-shirts, postcards, pins, coffee cups, playing cards – even furniture. I especially love the old fashioned retro lawn chair with the ’60’s logo. What can I say, I’m a Pepper.

Dr. Pepper Museum
300 South 5th Street
Waco, Texas