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Animals taking over the fair

The 52nd Lions Club Central Alabama Fair, opening Oct. 6, will be full of fun and interesting features with something for everyone to marvel at and enjoy.

One of the favorite events will be offered nightly when Kyra Sparks’ exotic animals are on display. Sparks, a local attorney, has been giving a home to them for seven years “because I like them and am concerned about them,” she says.

The number of animals has grown to more than 60 in her Party Animals Petting Zoo. Many are raised on a nursing bottle, and each is gentle and friendly.

“They think they are supposed to be fed and petted,” Sparks laughed, hugging a nearby llama as she spoke.

Due to the large number of animals and the large size of some of them, they are taken to only two events each year: the Selma Public Library’s Summer Program in June and the fair in October.

However, throughout the year schools are allowed to schedule field trips for the students to visit the animals on the farm.

Admission price is 25 soda can tabs per student. These are collected and given to the Ronald McDonald House Pop Tab Collection Program in Birmingham.

On a recent visit to the petting zoo, Morgan Academy’s fourth grade class and fathers of St. Edmund Learning Center brought 17,000 soda can tabs.

The zoo animals each day eat hay early and an individual special diet for each in the afternoon. Alfonso, Rose, Ashley and Brandon Sparks and Curtis Hall provide daily care and feeding. Sparks’ small son Brandon, 3, enjoys feeding treats to Cupid, his favorite goat. Dr. Mark Lawrence of Selma Animal Hospital provides veterinary care.

The animals stay on the grounds of Sparks’ country home with some of the species placed in their own pens, others in the general population. This year, a very special and outstanding occupant is a 3-week-old Zebra named Zeke, a beautiful addition to inhabitants of the small barn.

Kyra Sparks’ home and petting zoo is easily identified by the number of small sheep and goats grazing on the grass behind a white fence. The largest goat is named Elvis, with Cupid the next largest goat.

All Sparks’ animals have personal names in addition to species identities. The varieties visiting the fair include: llamas (Baby Flash, Chip and Tangie); an alpaca (Paco); coatimundi (Smokey and Bandit); wallaby kangaroos (Sheila, Joey and Olivia); McCaw parrot (Sam); and a friendly and affectionate camel, Charlie Brown.

Others include: a miniature horse and her baby (Spot and Silver); sheep (Serta); pygmy goats; ringtailed lemur (Lee-Lee); miniature horses and donkeys (Tia and Joseph); and the zebu, a miniature cow (MiniMoo). There are also potbelly pigs, peacocks, turkeys and ducks.

The animals at the fair will be meticulously tended, as they are at home. Most enjoy being petted and admired during their stay at the fair. And a watchful eye is always upon them, says Sparks.