A Safari in Vienna, Ohio

In the Saturday, August 22nd edition of the Plain Dealer my column is about the chance to take a Safari right here in Ohio.  Here is an excerpt:

The huge camouflaged open vehicle meandered under an open blue sky down a gravel road.  It wound its way through fields and past lakes where antelope were knee-deep in the water drinking.  The truck was followed by camels, Watusi cattle, zebras and a host of other exotic creatures.   The youngsters on board squealed with delight as the truck lumbered down the bank of a waterway and waddled through the hub-cap deep water and finally onto a small rise where llamas and mountain goats were waiting.

 The Serengeti?  No.  Vienna, Ohio.

 This is Wagon Trails Animal Park not far from Youngstown, and it gives visitors the chance to feel like they might be in Africa or on six other continents as animal’s crowd around the specially-designed trucks.  Each visitor is given a bucket filled with food pellets that the animals crave.  So it’s not unusual to see tiny pot-bellied pigs running between the clumsy hooves of camels, or zebras shoulder to shoulder with a water buffalo all looking for passengers to toss them a treat.

 Wagon Trails Animal Park was once a dairy farm where herds of black and white Holstein cattle grazed.  Now the seventy acres of pasture and woods is home to nearly 500 exotic animals from 6 continents.  Alex Bertok, the owner of this virtual Noah’s Ark says it was his son who suggested that it might be more profitable to give up their home supply business and farming enterprise and instead start an animal park where visitors could get up close and personal with creatures that they usually only see in books or from a distance at a zoo.  So in 1999 Wagon Trails Animal Park was born.  …….

…you can read the rest in the Plain Dealer or on their web site at www.cleveland.com


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