FREEPORT -- Some of the most rare animals on Earth call the next stop on our Hometown Tourist Series home: Hemker Park and Zoo in Freeport.

Animal Collection Manager Marcus Hemker says they started from some humble beginnings.

"We started in the late 70's, we've grown from waterfoul to now having one of the rarest cold climate animal collections in the country."

The zoo sees around 40,000 visitors a year, and has been owned and operated by the Hemker family since its beginning.

Some of the highlight animals at the zoo are Alpine Ibex's, SweetPea, an "ambassador" badger and Reindeer who pull a sleigh for Santa in the winter.

One of their - literally - biggest attractions is their 3-year-old Giraffe Marcello, who you can feed yourself every day at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. weather permitting, and for $3 a person.

Hempker says they have some high goals at the zoo.

"What we do is we work in species survival plans for endangered animals in the world, so we're apart of a global plan to help these species so we can put them back in the wild."

Hemker Park and Zoo has 2 big events coming up this fall:

  • Fall Zoo Fest, which features the regular zoo attractions, miniature-horse-drawn wagon rides and face-painting for your kids, Amish crafts and, produce including pumpkins and apples. Tickets for that are $8.
  • Boo at the Zoo, go to the zoo and enjoy Halloween with their animals, tickets for this are also $8.

Ticket prices for the zoo are:

  • Adults: $10.75
  • Seniors (60+): $9.75
  • Children (ages 2-12):
  • Infants: Free

Over 50 different species call the zoo home.

Photo: Richard Leguil, WJON