The emu likes to get its head scratched. The camel eats whole bananas, including the peel. And the caiman, well it’s best not to get too close because it might just bite you.
These are just some of the animals available at the Warren County A&L Fair’s petting zoo, now in its fourth year with animals provided by Tic Tac Farm. Petting zoo interest continues to grow as last year 30,000 people visited the attraction.
“That’s not an estimate. We have a person with a counter at the door so it’s an actual amount,” said fair volunteer and Tic Tac Farm owner Patrick Robinson. “That’s 30,000 people who got to see these animals for free. If you go to a zoo, you’re paying $10 or $15 and a lot of times you don’t even get to pet the animals.”
New this year are a nearly one-ton ox, a buffalo calf, and a tegu, which is a four-foot lizard with a forked tongue. They join popular attractions like an emu, Beau the camel, and a caiman, a feisty type of miniature crocodile.
“We weighed the ox on Thursday because we knew everyone would want to know and it weighed 1,880 pounds,” said Robinson.
Pat Jones was impressed by the ox, but she had more fun petting an emu on the head and neck while her friend, Marie Huffstetter, took her picture. Pat then snuggled face to face with the llama, which she described as her favorite animal at the petting zoo. “They are just so lovable,” she said.
No one was eager to snuggle up to the caiman, which eats rats and baby rabbits and is extremely quick.
Fair Board members are proud of their four-year effort to transform what was an old hog barn into a comfortable and handicap-accessible petting zoo. The area is now air conditioned and eight overhead fans were installed for visitor and animal comfort.
In the animal stalls, the concrete is now covered with one-inch thick rubber mats. The animals, who stay at the fair the entire week, are allowed out of their stalls every morning, which also allows the stalls to be cleaned daily.
While admission is free, visitors can purchase animal feed for 50 cents. That money goes toward scholarships for Youth Fair Board members.
Petting zoo hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. until the fair ends Saturday night. The two-hour closure in the middle of the day is to give the animals a break.