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This area is also where the smart visitor heads before venturing out into the Great Unknown of the Dome — Carter CountryDome has all your safari needs, from stylish pith helmets to burial shrouds for those in your party whom fate chooses to send to the Great Hunting Grounds in the Sky. (Note: That does not refer to the Sarah Palin E-Z Hunt.)
AstroSafari, of course, will not just be designed for adults. Accessible from the VIP areas will be the Kiddie Killin' Zone, a fun place where the young'uns get their own chance to wield death-dealing iron against a menacing foe. Worry not, though — that "menacing foe" has been rendered safe through modern science, not to mention generations of evolution.
Drowsy goats, who have spent the day "sippin' goat syrup," as their handlers colorfully put it, are penned in an enclosure 15 feet away from where your towheaded youngster will be happily peering through a 10x40 mm fixed-power SuperScope with laser sight attached to a Remington M700 BDL sniper rifle balanced on a tripod.
A deep breath, a cool wait for the precise moment and WHAM! One less goat to threaten the human race. The thrill of the hunt will be something your kid will treasure forever, at least until he moves on to torturing cats by inserting firecrackers up their butts. (Note: Negotiations for "BoomTown," a place where such wholesome firecracker-related species-thinning can occur in safety, are still underway, despite the interference of such socialist/communist/Democrat groups as PETA and the Humane Society.)
This is where the elite meet. An annual membership (its price is listed in county documents only as "If you have to ask...") gets customers access to this exclusive area, where Dan Pastorini once took post-game showers.
"Safari Superstars" have their hunting done for them by hired bearers and guides; an over/under competition on how many of their temporary employees survive the experience can result in savings of up to 15 percent on rare elephant-tusk good-luck charms.
It's definitely "The right crowd, and no crowding" as the roster of Superstars is limited to two dozen handpicked über-Houstonians.
The contract signed by the county mandates that Commissioners Court be given free membership in the Superstars; also granted automatic acceptance into the club is any district-court judge who ends up hearing a lawsuit filed by the survivors of any AstroSafari "victim." Membership is otherwise limited to those willing to pay the $150,000 annual fee, or any seafood vendor Tilman Fertitta needs to cut a deal with ASAP for his restaurant chain.
The Safari Superstar package also includes parking.
Such are the details set to be announced next week by county officials. Some people contacted by the Press say they are appalled.
"We will protest this with all the vigor and effectiveness with which we close down the rodeo each year," said PETA spokeswoman SunGod Nature (née Susan Greenberg). "Harris County authorities don't realize just who they're messing with."
Others protested the behind-closed-doors negotiations. "It is simply appalling that — in Harris County, Texas, a place that has set the example for government on every level to operate transparently — the public has not been involved every step of the way with this," said permanently outraged blogger Kevin Black. "It's almost as if they are trying to make deals out of the public eye, and that is something with which Houstonians simply won't put up."
While it is true that local elected officials have learned in Houston that sweetheart deals with prominent local businessmen are done at their own peril — unless they involve lucrative pieces of property given away for a song, and then it's perfectly okay — it seems clear that the AstroSafari project will go through. Not only does it include El Franco Lee's TIRZ and Ed Emmett's Superstar membership, plans include an enclosed, weatherproof Roller Derby track, thus ensuring Steve Radack's vote. And that makes three votes out of five.
So weep and wail all you want when this project is announced next week, you Houstonians with no vision.
Even those who complain will reap the benefits of this spectacular attraction.
Just like they do with the downtown Aquarium, safe as it may be.