By: Sheryl Sowell | Category: Other | Issue: July 2010
Frank Gaddy has been volunteering at Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary since it opened 15 years ago.
On your mark, get set, go! The turtles slowly but steadily inch their way to the finish line as an announcer exclaims, “We’ve got a dead heat on our hands, folks!” This is the setting for the annual Turtle Race at Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary in Broken Arrow. According to Frank Gaddy, a long-time volunteer at Safari’s, the event started about ten years ago. “We had a bunch of turtles show up one year, and one of the kids touring Safari’s suggested we have a turtle race. It was so much fun, we’ve done it every year since then. The kids love it.”
This year’s race takes place Saturday, July 31 at 1 p.m. Participation is free with paid admission. Children can bring their own turtles, or they can rent a turtle for $5. (All money given to Safari’s goes directly back to caring for the animals.) “Turtles can be found everywhere this time of year,” said Frank. “One really good place to find them is the creek at 71st and Oak Grove Road in Broken Arrow.”
A large bull’s-eye is drawn onto the grassy grounds of Safari’s, and the turtles begin their race from the middle of the circle. The lucky young owner of the turtle who first reaches the outer edge receives a prize package, as well as the glory of being the champion. “One tip I can give kids is that bigger does not always mean better,” said Frank. “A lot of times the biggest turtle is the slowest.”
If you’ve never visited Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary, you are in for a treat. Celebrating its 15th year, Safari’s consists of 12 wooded acres housing over 200 animals, including lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, kangaroos, barnyard animals, wolves, birds, alligators, bears, monkeys, snakes and more. “We rescue all kinds of wildlife, and they all come from either private individuals who could not keep them or from zoos that overbreed,” explained owner and founder Lori Ensign.
Don’t miss Safari’s annual Turtle Race, taking place Saturday, July 31 at 1 p.m.
Safari’s provides a fun, interactive animal experience like no other. “You can purchase treats to feed to the animals, including the big cats, as well as pet a lot of the animals,” said Frank. “It’s unique because you actually get up close to the animals.”
New additions to the animal sanctuary include a three-month-old baby black bear named Koda, a camel named Sammi, and three miniature Sicilian donkeys. But according to Frank, the most popular animal at Safari’s is still Rocky the liger. A liger is fathered by a lion and mothered by a tiger. “A lot of people had never heard of ligers until ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ came out,” laughs Frank. “Rocky has been with us for over 12 years, and now everyone who comes through wants to see him and feed him.”
Admission to Safari’s is $6 for adults, $5 for ages 4 to 12, and children under 3 get in free. As a nonprofit organization, all of the proceeds generated go directly toward caring for and feeding the animals. Safari’s is open on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. year-round. For more information, visit www.safarissanctuary.org. And be sure to mark your calendars for a day of family fun Saturday, July 31 for the annual Turtle Race!
Sheryl Sowell was born and raised in Tulsa, OK. She graduated from Will Rogers High School and received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Northeastern State University in 2007. She has worked for Value News as editor, writer and advertising copywriter since 2008. She enjoys meeting and interviewing people for Value News articles, learning about their backgrounds, and helping to promote their businesses and local events. In her free time, she enjoys reading, trying new recipes and crafts from Pinterest, attending concerts and sporting events, and spending time with family and friends. Sheryl lives in Tulsa with her fiancé Paul, their daughter Scarlett, and their two dogs, Gunner and Boo.