Family Travel 2012

Nichole Livengood



A Hollywild turkey tale

Posted 11/21/2012 11:01:00 PM

One of the highlights of our late summer trip to Hollywild Animal Park in Wellford was that my daughter was able to pet a turkey.

For most people this is not a big deal, maybe, but for a girl who loves all animals, it was one more close encounter she could check off her list. It’s not often you meet a “people-friendly” turkey, so in light of it being turkey season, I called Hollywild Animal Park to find out the backstory on these creatures. Kim Atchley, director of marketing and public relations for the park, relayed a story that will warm your family’s heart.

Hollywild once had a pair of turkeys named Princess Hope and Sir Thomas. The two birds became park greeters, spending their time just outside the admissions gate. They were often the first animals visitors would see when they came in. Park employee Zee Harmon would explain to people that these turkeys were domesticated and quite accustomed to people and even liked to be petted. Many visitors were afraid of the large turkeys at first, but quickly found out they were friendly.

Harmon was welcomed each day with her own special call from the big birds. She was even the one who named them. The male, or tom turkey, became Sir Thomas. Harmon felt he needed a name that was regal and stately because he was most certainly a gentleman. She named the female Princess Hope because the turkey had come to the park with a wing injury that was healing. Sir Thomas would often ruffle his feathers to get Princess Hope’s attention.

Over the years many visitors had special interactions with Sir Thomas and Princess Hope. One family, in particular, had a special bond with the birds. During each visit, the family’s two young girls would come looking for Sir Thomas and Princess Hope and made many happy memories with the turkeys. Sadly, when the girls came looking for their friends on a late fall visit, the turkeys weren’t there.

Harmon took the girls’ mother aside and explained that the birds had found a new home, but she just couldn’t bring herself to tell her sweet friends that they’d found their heavenly home since her daughters’ last visit to the park.

“This kind of bonding, between the animals at Hollywild Animal Park, the staff, and the park visitors is what makes Hollywild such a special place,” Atchley said. “We’re thankful to be a part of making the happy memories and connections like this possible each and every year. Though sometimes they’re bittersweet like this one, and we’ll miss Sir Thomas and Princess Hope, they left a legacy of happy memories with many visitors, especially those two young girls.”

Hollywild’s Winter Park is now open for the season on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. during November, January and February. Admission is $6 and allows visitors to walk to the fences where all the safari animals come up to eat from their hands. It’s a great chance for visitors to interact with the animals up close. Food costs $1 to $5 per bag. Click here for more information.