Zoo patrons lined the sidewalks of the Hattiesburg Zoo for the 64th annual Birthday Bash and the grand opening of the state-of-the-art Asbury Discovery Center.
"It's not just a classroom, it's also our Galapagos tortoise holding, we have a way now to be able to keep our Galapagos tortoises on display in the winter, which is a climate they don't handle well, as well as our coatimundi has an indoor-outdoor exhibit, so there is a real complexity in addition to just the decor to the design of the building," said Hattiesburg Convention Commission Executive Director, Rick Taylor.
The 2,200 square foot building features viewable housing for many of the zoos never before displayed education animals, as well as viewable offices and laboratories for zookeepers. All made possible from a July 2013, $277,000 grant from the Asbury Foundation.
"This is about two and a half years worth of work, the building had to be designed and Albert and Associates did an exceptional job on that, and then we went from there and actually hired a design firm out of California to do our Steampunk design and our Steampunk fabrication," said Taylor.
Guests stepping in to the discovery center got a glimpse of the Industrial Revolution as never before imagined. The curious zoo goers came across a wide variety of things from animals to gadgets and gears to interact with throughout the center.
A couple of the birthday guests weighed in on their fun today.
"It was very good, I liked all the animals, I liked the tigers the best," said Isaiah Evans.
"The zoo is really a big part of our life ever since Kaitlyn got big enough to come to the zoo," said Timothy Dedeaux.
Guests of the bash also got the chance to enjoy magic shows, face painting, cupcakes, and multiple animal encounters throughout the zoo.
"We've got room still to grow, we are excited to open this building, we are hoping it will bring more people, as more people come to the zoo, as more people come back to the zoo that creates funds for us to expand the zoo and add new animals and new attractions," said Taylor.