Three young calves frolic playfully within the confines of Forest Park’s fenced Animal Farm. The red barn structures offer a farm-style retreat for visitors within Everett’s city limits.
Petting zoos are a popular summertime family activity.
Forest Park Animal Farm, opening Saturday, and Rotary Ranch Petting Zoo in Jennings Memorial Park in Marysville provide visitors with hours of entertainment and education during the summer.
Beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, Diesel, a Holstein calf, Newton and Cilantro, two Jersey calves, and more than 50 other barnyard animals housed at the Forest Park farm will greet visitors with their moos, clucks and oinks.
The zoo, open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, will delight and educate more than 40,000 people during its 11-week run.
“It’s a unique asset to have in a city like this,” said recreation superintendent Ardell Brandenburg of the Everett Parks and Recreation Department.
For a variety of farm animals on loan from local farmers, this summer residency provides temporary shelter and many learning opportunities.
Educational summer camps at the farm offer children weeklong adventures where they will learn about a variety of farm animals by feeding, grooming and caring for them. There are also pony adventures where children have hands-on experience with the ponies and camps for younger children who can feed the animals, enjoy games and make crafts.
Children ages 14 and older can sign up for a few hours a week, completing chores such as feeding baby lambs, milking dairy goats and grooming ponies.
“It’s really such a great chance to interact with the animals and learn about the animals,” Brandenburg said.
Families can also learn about the responsibilities involved with caring for and owning a pet at the Bunny Bank. For $20, those interested can adopt a bunny for a three-day stay at home. The Animal Farm provides all the necessary supplies for the responsibility-building activity.
A “Breakfast with the Animals” program offers a chance to care for the animals before having breakfast.
Having hands-on contact with the crowing roosters, bleating goats and quacking ducks wandering throughout the facility is a concern to some parents, but Brandenburg assures visitors that there’s no need to worry.
“We are very health conscious for our animals and the visitors,” said Brandenburg of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed facility.
The USDA inspected and approved the facility earlier this year based on a strict set of criteria and standards the agency follows.
Brandenburg said there’s a number of measures the city takes to ensure the wellbeing of the zoo’s visitors, including posting numerous hand-washing signs, requiring visitors to wash their hands upon entering the facility and providing hand-washing stations near the exit.
Concerned parents can put their minds at ease, she said.
“All of the animals are inspected and all of their health requirements are met,” Brandenburg said.
The many additional activities at Forest Park also make the park a big draw during the summer, including the pool, free pony rides at the zoo and summer concerts in the park.
The Rotary Ranch Petting Zoo opened its gates last weekend to greet visitors in Jennings Memorial Park in Marysville.
Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, the zoo houses a variety of animals.
The city of Marysville’s petting zoo is supported by the Marysville Future Farmers of America program in cooperation with the Marysville School District.
Both free petting zoos are open through Aug. 20.
Dan Bates / The Herald
Terese Shatzka (rear) feeds a 6-week-old La Mancha goat named Cirrus while Animal Farm manager Keli McAuliffe washes and dries another 6-week-old La Mancha named Trevor on Tuesday at the Forest Park Animal Farm. The facility opens Saturday morning.