COLUMBIA — Offering an array of exotic animals for petting along with pony and camel rides, Hedrick’s Educational Petting Zoo opened at the Boone County Fair on Wednesday afternoon. It is the second time the petting zoo is participating in the fair.
“We really enjoyed it last year and had a good crowd,” Jonnie Smalls, an employee for Hedrick’s Promotions, said.
Fairgoers were able to pet the animals and, if they wanted, feed them. A regular cup of feed cost $1 and a family size $5.
Under the big red-and-white tent, there were 39 baby animals, all longing for attention from visitors. A zebra, a water buffalo, a Patagonian Cavy — a southern Argentinean rodent — were among the more exotic of the animals.
The petting zoo also included a South African Eland, the largest species of antelope that, when fully grown, can weigh 2,500 pounds.
Fairgoer Jen Greenbaum brought her son who she said was afraid of the animals.
“He wouldn’t feed any of the animals, but I did, and I enjoyed it,” she said. “Though, one goat did eat the feed cup.”
Smalls said all of the animals are bred and raised at Hedrick’s Exotic Animal Farm in Nickerson, Kan. The animals are only used for educational purposes, which is why each animal pen had signs giving the animals’ name and species information, she said.
While some were scared the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig would bite, others willingly picked up grass and fed the Pygmy goats.
First-time fair attendees Yolanda Boone and her children were unafraid of petting and feeding the animals. Boone said she had heard about the fair from residents and decided to check it out and bring the kids to the carnival.
“We originally came for the carnival, but the kids saw the animals and were drawn to them,” Boone said.
Smalls said last year they received good feedback from visitors, so they were more than happy to make another appearance at this year’s fair. She said Hedrick’s gives visitors of all ages the opportunity to pet and learn about exotic animals.
“It’s also a great way to bring families together, too,” Smalls said. “We come to these fairs because it’s good for family entertainment.”