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Ashburn Blog: Author Kara Arundel book signing Dec. 2

Nick Arundel donated two baby gorillas to the National Zoo in 1955. Courtesy Photo
Author Kara Arundel will be signing her newly published book "Raising America's Zoo: How two wild gorillas helped transform the National Zoo" at Barnes and Noble in One Loudoun on Dec. 2 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Arundel, who is the sister-in-law to the Times-Mirror's publisher, Peter Arundel, said she was inspired to write the book after she heard stories of her father-in-law Nick Arundel's trip to Africa in 1955 -- when he brought home two young gorillas on a commercial flight and donated them to the National Zoo.

Nick Arundel, who was formerly the publisher of the Times-Mirror, passed away in 2011. He was a passionate conservationist and was part of the original group who founded the Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ).

Arundel's book has been a labor of love -- she said it took her five years of research and writing to complete the project.

"There were diaries and news clippings, letters and photos," Kara Arundel said. "I went through them and also visited the Smithsonian Archives."

Kara said the book shares the untold story about the gorillas, their offspring and their caregivers.

"This is especially interesting because it is when zoos transformed into more conservation-focused care," she said.

Kara interviewed former caregivers at the zoo and she looks at the people who had an important role in animal conservation at that time.

She said one interesting story was in 1961 when the 4th gorilla born in captivity was at the National Zoo. The best practice at that time was to take the baby from its mom and raise it for a few months at the zoo keeper's home in suburban Maryland. They fed the baby gorilla and put diapers on it.

"I wanted to save a part of this history that could get lost, as it is the beginnings of their conservation efforts," Kara Arundel said. Arundel lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband Tom, and their two sons.

One Starry Night Dec. 8 and 9

For the third straight year, "One Starry Night" in Bethlehem will be open to the community Dec. 8 and 9 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Ashburn Presbyterian Church on Ashburn Road.

More than 80 costumed characters from the church’s congregation will be on hand to welcome visitors and guide them through the exhibit.

Upon entering the building, visitors will be instantly transported to the streets of Bethlehem. There are over a dozen places to visit along the way, where visitors can smell the fresh baked bread, make ornaments in the wood shop, and build with clay at the potters' shed. The walk through Bethlehem will feature live animals and the opportunity to see Joseph, Mary and a live “Baby Jesus.”

Event organizer Amy Smith said there will be a few new additions this year, including a "tanning" station and there will be marketplace and animals located out front.

"We are anticipating over 600 people to come in over the weekend. It is such a special event," Smith said.

Ashburn Presbyterian Church is located at 20962 Ashburn Road and can be reached by calling 703-729-2012. Parking is available in the church parking lot. The event is free to the public.

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