The Essex County Turtle Back Zoo set a new annual attendance record for the eighth consecutive year, according to the office of Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.
On Saturday, Dec. 1, DiVincenzo welcomed Pompton Plains residents Shannon and Alex Patti and their 2½-year-old son Roman as the 525,508th visitors to the zoo in 2012.
In recognition of the milestone, DiVincenzo, Essex County Parks Director Dan Salvante and Turtle Back Zoo Director Dr. Jeremy Goodman presented the family with a gift basket filled with toys, stuffed animals and merchandise from the zoo, along with a one-year membership to the Essex County Zoological Society.
This is the third consecutive year more than half a million visitors have come to zoo.
“We have made tremendous improvements to Turtle Back Zoo and the large turnout of visitors show how popular our zoo has become," DiVincenzo said in a press release. "Introducing new natural habitat exhibits like the Big Cat Country and Gibbons Apes, along with our Carousel, Treetop Adventure Course, miniGOLF Safari and Train Ride attractions make coming to Turtle Back Zoo a fun, learning adventure for children and families. We would not be here without the continuing support of our loyal visitors, sponsors, volunteers and staff. We look forward to seeing everyone in 2012 for even more adventures, excitement and family fun,” he added.
The Patti family set the new attendance record when they entered the zoo on at about 6:10 p.m. to visit the Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular.
“We have relatives who live in the area, and our children always have such a fun time coming here together. My son loves the tigers, bears, monkeys and any kind of birds,” Alex Patti said. “Turtle Back Zoo is such a fun family experience. We never expected this, however. This is great surprise,” he added.
In 2010, Essex County Turtle Back Zoo welcomed more than 500,000 visitors for the first time in its history and finished the year with 511,655 visitors. Last year, attendance continued to surge, and reached 525,507. A new attendance record has been set every year since 2005, when 211,449 visitors came. Attendance of more than 300,000 was set in 2006 and attendance of more than 400,000 was set in 2007.
DiVincenzo also invited the public to spend part of their holiday season at the Sixth Annual Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo. Free admission is being offered at The Holiday Lights Spectacular, which will be held as follows:
Dates: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Dece. 7, 8, 9. Daily, Friday, Dec. 14 to Sunday, Jan. 1, 2013.
Times: 5 to 9 p.m. each night
Place: Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, 560 Northfield Ave., West Orange. The Holiday Lights Spectacular will be closed on Dec. 24th and 25th.