Wild way to start the holiday

Photo courtesy of: The GSU WIldlife Center

Alanna Navin

On Saturday Georgia Southern University’s Wildlife Center will present some of the most exotic animals and exciting skits for this year’s Wildlife Winterfest, all while spreading the holiday spirit.

“It’s the coolest experience that you will ever have. You get to see all these different animals that they bring out and you can touch some of the animals,” Toya Glover, senior biology major and employee of the Wildlife Center, said.

This year marks the third annual Winterfest and is projected to bring a crowd of over 2,000 people.

“It’s an opportunity for fans and friends of the Wildlife Center to visit this event and be exposed to wildlife that they wouldn’t normally come in contact with,” Steve Hein, director of the Wildlife Center, said.

Bryan Staples will be the special guest again at this year’s event and will bring a variety of animals such as a white tiger, lion, panther, kangaroo and camel.

“All of these were rescued animals. So he has dedicated his life to education and entertainment, which has a great message. We bring it all together on that day where we can offer something very unique and very special to supporters of the Wildlife Center, to the community of Bulloch County and, quite honestly, beyond that,” Hein said.

“Bryan is a very unique and creative individual. He is a master magician so he will be performing, but he incorporates animals throughout and there is a very strong conservation message with all of his programs,” Hein said.

Along with the animal performances, there will be holiday music performed by the GSU Chorale, a reading of “’Twas the Night before Christmas”, a petting zoo and Santa Claus. The festival will also make refreshments available such as hamburgers, hot dogs and hot chocolate.

While many children and families will enjoy the event, GSU students can enjoy the festival as well.

“Students love it. Students come too and they hang out with their friends and they get to see all these cool animals like Fennec foxes and lemurs and tigers,” Glover said.

“It will have great appeal to adults as well including Georgia Southern students because the mission of the Wildlife Center is to bring man and nature together,” Hein said.

Hein said that this kind of event is a rare opportunity to bring adult students up close to exotic animals that they would otherwise never get in close proximity to.

To create a bigger and better event this year, the Wildlife Center has sponsorship from Georgia Power, which sponsored the construction of the center.

According to a press release, admission to Wildlife WinterFest is $5 per adult, $3 per child (ages 3-11) and free for children ages two and under. Advance tickets are available at a discounted rate.

Hein said, “We exist to serve the University, the Statesboro community and, in fact, we serve thirty three counties and travel all over the country, but we are also here to serve wildlife and nature. What’s good for nature is what’s good for people as well.”