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Little Ponderosa draws big crowd for Fall Festival

Weekend event featured a chili cook-off, fun and games, and lots of animals

  • Austin Carroll of The Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue supervises the pony rides during the recent Fall Festival fundraising event at the zoo. - G. Chambers Williams III

  • Sherry Rostron of Rocky Top feeds a goose at The Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue during Oct. 9’s Fall Festival as Glenn Rostron looks on. - G. Chambers Williams III

  • Gunther the tiger refuses to let his nap be disturbed by visitors to the recent Fall Festival at The Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue near Clinton. He kept his back to his admirers most of the day while he snoozed. - G. Chambers Williams III

Clinton’s Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue attracted a huge turnout for its 2021 Fall Festival recently, with a heavy, steady stream of visitors coming through the gates all day long.

Because there was so much traffic, school buses were used to ferry guests in from temporary parking lots set up in fields off the zoo property.

Besides the many animals on display both inside and outside the zoo’s facilities, there were crafts and other merchandise on sale at various vendor booths set up throughout the property, and several food options to keep visitors fed, including a Kona Ice truck.

A bounce house and inflatable slide were set up to keep kids entertained, and pony rides were available for children, as well.

There was also a chili cookoff competition in the main zoo building’s conference room, with people such as Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank and Sheriff Russell Barker among the top winners.

Barker laughed and said his pot of chili was “made from an old jailhouse recipe.”

Of course, the zoo’s animals were the real stars of the show, including Baby Cash, a curious, friendly 8-month-old camel that the zoo recently took in as a rescue.

Eleven-year-old Cheyanne Brown, a sixth-grader at Clinton Middle School, spent some time bonding with Cash, and the two seemed to be enthralled with each other.

Cheyanne, the daughter of Alan Brown, said she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. She already seemed to have developed a good pen-side manner, at least with camels.

Most of the vendors said that all of the money from their sales at the festival would be donated to the zoo to help fund its operations and feed its animals.

Donations were also collected from people trying out the many different kinds of chili after the judging was complete in the conference room.

Judges for the chili cookoff were Corbin Cox, Cade Cox, Keith Copeland, Dave Clark and Brandon Peilizzari.