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Reptile Gardens celebrates 80th anniversary

(KEVN)
Published: Jun. 3, 2017 at 4:52 PM MDT
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An iconic attraction in the Black Hills is celebrating a major milestone.

On Saturday is Reptile Gardens' 80th anniversary.

Black Hills FOX Reporter Katrina Lim shows us what the park is doing to celebrate.

Katrina Lim says,"Reptile Gardens has been open since June 3, 1937, and Bocce the ball python here has been helping educate guests for the last few years."

John Brockelsby says his father Earl opened Reptile Gardens with humble beginnings.

Public Relations Director John Brockelsby says, "He literally had a pit in the ground with a teeny tiny building. The animals he had were just animals that were indigenous found in this region. He had prairie rattlesnakes, bull snakes, garter snakes, blue racers, things like that and that was the whole collection."

When Earl first opened the park, admission was 10 cents for adults and 5 cents for children.

His earnings for that first day in 1937 was $1.85.

John Brockelsby says, "Dad would actually come out of the building and he would go over the car and he'd try to get the people to part with that 10 cents to watch him jump in this pit and play with his snakes."

To celebrate their 80th anniversary, the park prepared a bird show script centered around this momentous occasion and planted more flower beds than they've ever had.

They're also scheduled to be recertified as the largest reptile collection in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Lance Fuhrmann from the Reptile Gardens Management Team says, "I think we offer a unique experience. The animals themselves are unique, but then we kind of go above and beyond in some aspects and I think we achieve that quite often."

Brockelsby's siblings and cousin still operate Reptile Gardens, and visitors appreciate that it's family-owned to this day.

Visitor Gypsy Lamore says, "I think that it's great because when things are family-owned, the next generations kind of already know what is special about the place and how to take care of it. When new people come in sometimes they don't and it loses its appeal so I think that it's amazing."

Lance Fuhrmann says, "I think it's very cool to be part of something that's been around that long and to still be in the same family I think is something to be proud of."

On June 17th, Reptile Gardens will also host an employee reunion at the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn, including employees who worked during the 1940's.

Katrina Lim, Black Hills FOX News.