By VICTORIA CALDERON
• Leader & Times
This year’s Five State Fair will play host to Hedrick’s Exotic Animal Petting Zoo, where there will be zebras, oryx and yaks, oh my!
Joe Hedrick owns and operates the mobile animal farm. Based out of Nickerson, Hedrick owns multiple businesses related to animals. Aside from the Exotic Animal Farm, he also runs a Bed and Breakfast Inn, where guests get tours of his zoo, and Hedrick’s Promotions, Inc., which features pig races and more.
Hedrick’s Exotic Animal Farm is a regular staple of the Hutchinson State Fair and other fairs across the state, according to fair board member Larry Phillips.
“This man is really well regarded in the fairs around Kansas,” Phillips said. “He’s a regular. We talked to people with the Finney County and Ford County fair boards, and they said that Joe Hedrick’s petting zoo is really a special event to have for the children at the fair.”
The petting zoo will be open at the fair starting at noon Tuesday, July 29, and will close at 9 p.m. every day. It will be open those hours every day through Friday, Aug. 1.
The zoo is free to see, unless children (or adults) wish to feed the animals.
“The only money they will spend is if they want to buy their kids 25 cents worth of animal feed so they can feed the animals,” Phillips said. “We’re trying several things that will be free. The Five State Free Fair is what it used to be called. We want to get people out there. We’re really excited this year about some of the things we’re offering, and we’re offering them numerous activities or events for more than just one day.”
The tent for Hedrick’s Exotic Animal Farm will be located between the Activity Center and the carnival, on Stadium Road behind the Road and Bridge Department.
Among the animals featured in Hedrick’s petting zoo are the typical stock of a small zoo, such as donkeys and ponies. However, they will feature many more exotic or unusual animals: emus, pot bellied pigs, spurred tortoises, alpacas, aoudads, bison, porcupines and kangaroos, just to name a few.
The animal farm will also have camels, which will be giving rides to the public.
“(People) don’t have to go to Cairo, Egypt, if they want to ride a camel,” Phillips said. “And that’s for the adults out there, too.”
Several fair board members had the opportunity to meet Hedrick at the Kansas State Fairs and Festivals Convention last January in Topeka, where they worked out a deal to get him to Liberal for the first time.
“He’s been in business a long time. He’s very very popular and well known. If anybody has been to the state fair, they have probably seen Joe Hedrick’s petting zoo over there,” Phillips said. “We’re excited to get him to come here. This is the first time he’s ever been to Liberal. Hopefully, we can make it an annual thing. If people come out and see him and he gets a positive response, that’s what it’s all about. We want to try things people like. That’s why we have a lot of new events this year; we’re trying to get people back out to enjoy some of the stuff to do out there.”