LIBERTY TOWNSHIP – Holiday cheer has arrived at Keystone Safari, where the resident animals are surrounded by thousands of tiny colored lights.
The Liberty Township animal park recently installed displays all over the property. There are at least a quarter million lights, said co-owner Adam Guiher.
“We added a bunch more,” he said of how it compares to last year’s lights.
The walk-through setup takes visitors past animals like giraffes, lions, hyenas and camels, and into the kids’ area.
Most of the lights are animal shapes, while the park’s main entrance is lined with brightly-lit pine trees.
Thursday was opening night for the display plus features including camel and pony wagon rides, and photos with reindeer and a kangaroo.
Guiher smiled as excited families took in the sights and sounds of the park after dark, and he was joined by his own family – wife Tanis, co-owner of Keystone Safari, and their daughters, Teagan, 1, and Adalynn, 4.
This month marks the park’s first anniversary – it opened on Black Friday 2018 – and the Guihers are glad to be able to offer family fun for most of the year.
“It’s been going well,” Guiher said after they took a group photo with Roosie, a 6-month-old albino eastern gray kangaroo.
Keystone Safari will be open through Jan. 5 on these days: 4 to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; and noon to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. It will be closed on holidays, and will close for the season on Jan. 5 with an April reopening.
This weekend, admission is free for ages 2 to 12; 2 and under are always free. There is a limit of three free children’s admission tickets per adult.
The park will be closed if the weather is severe; check the Facebook page for updates along with details about Santa Claus; he’ll be visiting the park starting on Black Friday.
There are a few spots where visitors can warm up, like the picnic pavilion, gift shop, and the reindeer barn, where Katie Davidson and her daughter McKenna Minamyer were feeding the large creatures.
“She’s all about the animals,” Davidson said as McKenna, 1½, laughed at the reindeer snatching a carrot from her hand.
Thursday was the Negley, Ohio, family’s first visit to Keystone Safari. They enjoyed the light displays and getting up close with the animals.
The Guihers are already thinking ahead to next year, when the park’s safari bus tour will open. There will also be about 30 new species of animals, and plenty of opportunities for birthday parties, field trips and even weddings.
One couple got married under the zipline course this year, Guiher said.
And the park’s one-year mark is being celebrated with something special. Keystone Safari received the “Business of the Year” award from the Grove City Area Chamber of Commerce held this past Monday.
“We didn’t really see it coming. That means a lot to us,” he said.