, Port Arthur, Texas

March 15, 2013

Locals experience exotic at NHF

Brooke Crum
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Where can you find a baby wallaroo, a 12-year-old potbelly pig and a 71-year-old tortoise named Nemo?

At the Camp Junction petting zoo at the Nederland Heritage Festival, of course.

Forget the fried foods and frosty beverages. Forget the spinning rides and the bands playing on the side. They do not know what the eyes of a 71-year-old tortoise has seen.

While Nemo was content to remain still in a slice of sunlight — even though a goat decided to perch on his shell for several minutes — the lemurs jumped from one side of the their cage to the other, searching for fingers fondling cups of food (safe for the animals, of course).

Goats of all sizes, including three babies, wandered right up to people, nibbling and licking their hands in a quest for food, their noses pointed upward to sniff out any secret snacks.

Maggie, the 12-year-old potbelly, did not move around much, her belly grazing the straw-strewn floor. Meanwhile, turkeys Tom and Jerry tried to stay out of the way.

Tammy Thomson, owner of Camp Junction, said the 4-horned Jacob Sheep that roamed the lots was of the earliest known breed of sheep. She raised the wallaroo who gave birth to Smokey, the 6-month-old wallaroo, and many of the animals she brought to the festival.

It was Thomson’s second year to participate in the Nederland Heritage Festival.

“It’s home,” she said. “I can be in bed every night.”

Thomson travels around a lot, showcasing her exotic animals such as kangaroos, wallaroos (kin to kangaroos), camels and alpacas at events across the country.

It was the third day for Elijah Rogers, 3, to attend the festival with his great-grandfather in tow, Burt Rogers. It was their first time at the petting zoo, and Elijah Rogers had practically begged his great-grandfather to go.

“He always wants to go to the festival,” Burt Rogers said. “It’s his favorite place to go.”

Elijah Rogers was not shy one bit. He walked up to every animal — even those taller than he — and said “hi” before petting their noses. He jumped up and down, absolutely unafraid of the animals many times his size.

“A little daredevil is what he is,” Burt Rogers said.


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