Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo Nature Center

Logan Gorniack, 9, of the Chicago area, checks out the turtles at the Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo Nature Center Monday, June 10, 2019, near Byron.

Help celebrate a half-century heritage at Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo’s Birthday Party. What started as farmland now houses a 620-acre county park and a zoo with more than 30 Minnesota-native animals.

“We’re celebrating 50 years of Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo,” said Barb Jensen, Friends of Oxbow board president. “Fifty years of being a loved part of the community. Fifty years of being a favorite place for families to learn more about Minnesota-native animals and to get outside and into nature.”

Held rain or shine, the day-long event is hosted by the Friends of Oxbow and features a variety of family-friendly live music and activities: Make a birthday card for the zoo with the Rochester Art Center, meet Ruby the International Owl Center’s great horned owl, build a birdhouse with volunteers from the Lions Club, bounce in a bounce house, and enjoy birthday cake donated by the Canadian Honker. In between, families can participate in naturalist-led presentations that feature some of the zoo’s animals.

“Families can participate in the Feed the Bear, Feed the Raptors and Feed the Otter programs. There will be a program that features the zoo’s wildcats and a naturalist-led hike through the park,” said Jensen. “There is so much to celebrate at Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo. The birthday party provides a chance for families to get to know the animals at Oxbow a little bit better, to learn the history of the park and zoo and to recognize the people who have been part of it.”

Admission to the park and zoo are always free, as is admission to the birthday party and all of the party activities.

“Although admission is free, we are hoping that people will give generously,” said Jensen, noting that there will be opportunities for families to donate during the event. “In the past, donations have gone to a new badger and prairie house exhibit, the Path of Imagination natural playscape, the wildcat exhibit.

"As for upcoming plans, purchasing new animals has been a big push lately and we’re planning to open a new nature center in the next few years," Jensen said. "Donations matter. They allow us to continue doing this work, to continue improving on this great resource we have right here in Olmsted County.”

Lindy Lange is a licensed school social worker. Family Time appears every Wednesday. Up next: Healing Adventures Camp offers a helping hand and a listening ear to kids who have experienced the death of a loved one.

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