25 Years of Rolling Hills Zoo

2024 will mark 25 years of Rolling Hills Zoo.

According to the Zoo, they will  celebrate their 25th Anniversary, marking a remarkable quarter-century of wildlife conservation, education, and community engagement. Commemorating this momentous milestone, the Zoo is gearing up for a year-long celebration filled with special events and activities.

October 26, 1999, remains an unforgettable date etched in the history of Rolling Hills Zoo as the Zoo’s first 255 eager visitors streamed through the gates. It was on that date that Charlie Walker’s dream became a reality, and what began as a haven for draft horses grew into Salina’s inaugural zoo, and a premier regional tourist attraction in central Kansas.

Charlie Walker, a well-known Salina business man, entrepreneur and animal lover, initially erected the Main Barn to shelter his impressive collection of Belgian draft horses. The allure of these majestic creatures drew curious onlookers. As exotic animals began to join the herd, the Main Barn became a magnet for visitors. Witnessing the animals’ popularity, Charlie envisioned something more—a zoo that would captivate, engage and educate.

The journey from conception to realization was an odyssey that continued to evolve over time, including the Zoo’s name, which changed numerous times after the gates opened.

In honor of this memorable journey, the 25th Anniversary Celebration will feature a captivating exhibit in the Earl Bane Gallery, transporting visitors back to the Zoo’s infancy —a time when dreams were woven into reality.

The Earl Bane Gallery’s immersive exhibit will chronicle the Zoo’s evolution—from initial sketches to its earliest inhabitants. As guests embark on this historical voyage, they will discover the passion and true grit behind building the Zoo and its world-class Wildlife Museum. This unique experience offers an exclusive behind-the-scenes glimpse into the Zoo’s beginning and the subsequent years following, spotlighting each milestone and the Zoo’s cherished residents.

What Adventures Await In 2024?

In celebration of the Zoo’s 25th Anniversary, Rolling Hills Zoo is thrilled to introduce a few new events this year, beginning with the much-anticipated SnoWild, a snow-filled escapade taking place every Sunday in January. Perfect for the entire family, SnoWild promises an unforgettable experience without stepping foot outside. This snow-filled adventure in Hideaway Hollow Park will include friendly, flurrying snowball battles and snow fort construction with giant white LEGO blocks. Guaranteed for endless fun and excitement, this winter wonderland invites participants to unleash their strategic prowess and embrace the spirit of adventure. And the best part? No mittens required—just come prepared with your enthusiasm and a thirst for snowy thrills.

Other new events planned  include Two-for-One Admission held February 10 – 18th, Trivia Tales on February 29th, Silent Sundays in April, and Senior Wednesdays in September, along with other fun surprises throughout the year.

Rolling Hills Zoo will also be hosting fan favorite events, including ZOOrific EGGstravaganza, Wild About Moms, Safari Breakfast, the Father’s Day Car Show & Cruise, Run for the Hills, and the Zoo Brew Craft Fest. Then, mark your calendars for October 12, 2024, as Rolling Hills Zoo celebrates the Zoo’s 25th Anniversary in conjunction with Pumpkin PaZOOla.

While 2024 signifies an extraordinary milestone for Rolling Hills Zoo, it’s also a testament that the journey has just
begun. Unleash your adventurous spirit in 2024 as you immerse yourself in the wonders of wildlife during Rolling Hills Zoo’s 25th Anniversary Celebration.

Conveniently situated just six miles west of Salina off I-70, one can delve deeper into this vibrant world at www.rollinghillszoo.org, and join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates.

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Photo of founder Charlie Walker via Rolling Hills Zoo