Joy, Lady celebrate bear-y happy birthday

 By Emma Weidmann | Staff Writer, Video By Kaity Kempf | LTVN Reporter/Anchor

Mascots Judge Joy and Judge Lady celebrated their 21st and 20th birthdays on Saturday at the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat. Students, faculty and families alike came to wish the bears a happy birthday, with special guests President Linda Livingstone and first gent Brad Livingstone making an appearance. The event featured a bounce house, a photo booth, balloon animals, caricature drawings and more put together by the Department of Student Activities and Baylor Chamber of Commerce.

“We kicked it off with a three-tiered, bear-friendly birthday cake for Joy and Lady,” associate director of Student Activities Dakota Farquhar-Caddell said. “It’s their favorite day of the year.”

Those who work with the bears were especially eager to celebrate their birthday, as Joy and Lady are close to their hearts.

“It’s the best job in the world,” Farquhar-Caddell said. “Joy and Lady are some of the most awesome, most caring creatures you’ll ever meet. They love being a part of the Baylor family and it’s just great to make sure they live the best lives they can.”

Farquhar-Caddell, who is also the Robert Reid Director, gets to work closely with those who handle the bears directly. North Augusta, S.C., senior Jamie Holodak, president of Baylor chamber, explained how being a part of the bears’ life is really special to her.

“I’ve been working with them for two years now,” Holodak said. “It’s neat to be a part of their over two decades of life and see their progress, especially when Lady had her big surgery.”

Holodak spent time at Saturday’s event giving a presentation about the bears to those who walked through the habitat. Listeners heard about the bears’ habits, lifestyle and more. Holodak said education through presentations like these are important to the habitat’s mission.

The bear pit is the only university facility accredited with the American Zoo Association, meaning it is held to a high standard of care and stewardship, a pillar of the habitat’s mission.

“We get to educate the public about our bears and conservation efforts. Education is one of our three pillars at the habitat, so we take that very seriously and we love to share our knowledge with everyone else,” Holodak said.

Holodak said she enjoys the opportunity the birthday party gave to interact with the Baylor and Waco community and to continue to teach about black bear conservation, an opportunity that wasn’t as within reach once COVID-19 took hold on campus. During the pandemic, events like birthday parties for Joy and Lady were held in a less interactive format, Holodak said.

Out of the four years that the habitat has hosted birthday parties for the bears, the past three have been affected by the pandemic.

“When COVID-19 hit, we really had to limit the amount of people who were coming in and out of the habitat,” Holodak said.

In the past, the birthday parties for the bears have been, as Holodak described, a come-and-go event to minimize contact. However, as campus continues to welcome events back, the bear habitat is able to celebrate their beloved bears with the Baylor community as before.