The main attraction was initially Frasier the Lion. He was an old thing, who had trouble walking and whose tongue hung out the side of his mouth. Frasier retired from a Mexican circus to Lion Country in 1971 and was a hit with the lionesses as well as the public. He sired 35 cubs and his image adorned many of the souveniers... even after he passed away in 1972. He is buried on the hill with a large cross where visitors could see his grave overlooking the animal park.
In 1978, an unlikely herione emerged from Lion Country. Bubbles the Hippo, dug out of her enclosure and escaped into a drainage pond. She was loose for 11 days, eluding rangers and rarely showing more than her nostrils and ears above the water. Media helicopters hovered over her. Reporters and fans watched and cheered from the side of the road when glimpses were caught of the massive beast. She was the main headline for over a week. Bubbles dominated the media. People cheered for the liberated hippo, others were annoyed and called her a "menace." As a 10 year old child, I remember rooting for her. I worried she might not be eating right or that something would happen to her, being outside of the park. On the 11th day, rangers and veterinarians had a clear shot to tranquilize her. According to reports, she stumbled and as the weight of her internal organs fell upon her lungs, she suffocated. The head ranger at the time still insists that Bubbles' death was due to the tranquilizer. She was pregnant with her second calf. It was a sad time for Orange County. As a whole, we loved Bubbles. (Some of us still do!)
In 1984 Lion Country Safari closed. The animals were sold or rehomed to other zoos or refuges. I still have very fond memories of Lion Country.
Did I care about that? Nooo. Unlike Lion Country which admonished anyone from having their windows rolled down and capitalized on "Trespassers will be eaten" in a good-humored nature, the Olympic Game Farm allows open windows and the handfeeding of their charges. We came armed with 4 loaves of whole wheat bread; enough food for all!
We'd stopped in an area of that pen that was free of bison just for a couple moments. As I took pictures of a friend feeding the fallow deer, a "huff" came from next to my ear. It was a bison with most of his head inside the car, his nose next to my cheek. He'd crossed the meadow in a matter of moments. Last time I'd seen him he was across the enclosure! They're big, fast and friendly.
We opted to take the mini-tour afterward which included the barn that housed previous film sets and old movie artifacts. I was more taken, however with the pregnant goats of the petting zoo and llama who had signage warning and apologizing in advance for her love of spitting on people. It was a day filled with wildlife, up-close... in your car wildlife. It was a little slice of fond memories from home with a new twist. If you come to visit, be sure to put the Olympic Game Farm on your list of activities. It isn't your typical "tourist attraction." As a matter of fact, I can't wait to go back!