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Going Absolutely Wild

The Wrap This team braved nature to transform three carts for a family-owned Florida zoo.

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WELL, MY PEOPLE, by the time you read this, it will be 2021. We have collectively kissed goodbye to a global nightmare of a year. It’s a shame, too, because it was a once-in-a-lifetime year that did not go as planned. After all, it had been 101 years since the last identical double-digit calendar came off the presses.

In contrast, during 1919, the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified. “The manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors … is hereby prohibited …” And the Stanley Cup Finals were not played due to an influenza epidemic. I’m starting to see a pattern here, but could you imagine last year without the assistance of intoxicating liquors? Rick Ream would have been Public Enemy #1, spraying Tommy Gun bullets from the back of his Harley! But even in hard times, occasionally you get a chance to do something good, and that’s what this month’s story is all about.

CRASH CARTS

In 2017, Rick and Sara Deridder and their three kids sold all their earthly possessions to purchase a struggling zoo in the Florida panhandle city of Crestview. Visiting the Emerald Coast Zoo will get you up close and personal with sloths, bears, porcupines, lions, and, my favorite, kangaroos! (If you’ve never pet a roo, their coat is quite possibly the softest fur ever!)

The massive enclosures are open-air. The animals have great spaces to run and play in, but maintaining that realistic, wild feel means the grounds have mostly dirt roads, which small kids, elderly folks and disabled guests find difficult to traverse. So, Rick and Sara bought three “used” golf carts: one as a workhorse to carry feed, tools and equipment; and two as guest transportation.

But when I say, “used,” I mean these carts were barely clinging to life. They had myriad problems – flat tires, busted suspensions, missing headlights, rusted frames, broken and torn seats, etc. Oh, and one had a chicken nest under the seat! Not the best way to transport your guests. Wanting to help, we asked them to make the six-hour trip to Orlando with the three carts in tow, so we could make magic happen, and turn these Bondo buggies into show-stopping works of art!

SNAKE CHARMED

Upon arrival, we reviewed all the cart issues with Rick and Sara and our imaginations began to swirl with ideas. But not before that fool, Rick Deridder, literally jumped into the pond in the back of our property to show us how to catch water snakes. I kid you not. He snatched a three-foot Danger Noodle outta that waterhole like an eagle in full-dive mode! I was dying!

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Then he handed it to our Rick, who grabbed it wrong and promptly got a quick chomp! I was dying again!

After that fun, we sent them home so we could begin our task. Wrap This Designer Jason Wissig concocted some concepts while Facilities Manager Tim Jones initiated the dismantling of each cart and compiled his parts-needed list.

 Wrap This team

Media 1’s teams put plenty of TLC into these carts, including new tires, suspensions and body work, as well as textured animal wraps.

We purchased new tires, leaf springs, headlights and seats. Tim modified the two guest roofs to make one large roof for the work cart and installed new fabric roofs on the other two. Then we built a custom, diamond-plated “truck bed” with a tailgate for the work cart, and added a trailer hitch, and front- and rear-facing, roof-mounted LED lamps (for nocturnal animal feeding).

Next, Tim prepped and painted each cart, including all metal/plastic components, in Matthews Paint satin black, to prepare for the new wraps. We even had our friends at Dickey’s Upholstery re-cover the new black seats in color-matching marine vinyl to make them completely custom.

Meanwhile, Jason came up with beautiful designs – all animal themes. A white tiger for the work-cart, while the guest carts became a giraffe, and, in honor of Rick, a dirty water snake (actually, a reticulated python. I just wanted to say dirty water snake again!).

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The wrap guys took over and wrapped each cart, adding details such as die-cut snakeskin texture under the wrap, bamboo roof-rails wrapped in rope, and 3M reflective logos. Fabricator Steve Pass added custom Macaw perches to the front bumpers, so birds can ride along.

Once complete, we loaded those carts onto their trailer and dragged them all the way back to Emerald Coast Zoo. That six-hour trip took us nine hours, as we made 11 safety stops, but that’s a whole other story…

For more info, please visit emeraldcoastzoo.com and hit our Media 1/Wrap This YouTube channel to watch all four episodes of this wild build!

PHOTO GALLERY (23 IMAGES)

Dale Salamacha is the co-owner of Media 1/Wrap This (Sanford, FL). Contact Dale at [email protected].

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