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Opening day at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids

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Posted at 8:48 PM, Mar 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-27 20:48:37-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids is finally back open to the public.

It shut down early last year due to COVID and then stayed closed for the winter season. There’s also a new exhibit on site that’s the first of its kind in all of North America.

Heading out to the zoo is almost a rite of passage for kids, especially when it’s your birthday.

Making the annual trip is something families look forward to every year.

“I’m real excited to see the bears; that’s my favorite animal,” said one dad. “My wife and daughter are really excited to see the monkeys, and then my son, he hasn’t really said what he’s excited for; I think it might be the bears as well.”

It’s known as “shoulder season” at the zoo. There are animals that prefer the warmer weather, so they might not be out as much. Others, like the red panda triplets - Rose, Ruby and Willow - should be easy to spot.

“And our animals are really excited to have guests back too because they miss that interaction,” said John Ball Zoo Marketing Director Darci David.

David tells FOX 17 things will look a bit different this year thanks to COVID.

Anyone 5 and older will be required to wear a mask both indoors and out, and social distance from other families.

The zoo’s also limiting the amount of people allowed through the gates at once.

“So that’s why we encourage people to get their tickets ahead of time because of that guest capacity limit, but really it’s still gonna be a great day to come outside and enjoy the zoo,” said David.

But it’s not just live animals on display.

There’s also the BRICKLIVE Supersized! Exhibition up all summer long. It arrived in Michigan all the way from Great Britain.

The John Ball Zoo is the first in North America to host it, and it’s showcasing nature’s "small and mighty."

“So, when they’re so small, you might not even notice them in nature, but by supersizing them you can really get a close look, learn about where they live, what they eat, how they survive, and then really get to look at them in this really neat and unique way,” said David.

The zoo sold out for the morning and much of the afternoon.

You’re encouraged to buy tickets online to reserve your time and spot because of the limited capacity.

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