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Rolling Ridge Ranch Animal Park opened its doors in 1996 featuring 200 animals and birds. The business operated with a three-seater carriage and two wagons to take visitors along on a tour and feed the animals. According to manager, Orin Mast there were approximately 7,500-10,000 visitors that first year the ranch was open. This summer, 16 years later, the staff of Rolling Ridge Ranch is expecting between 50,000 and 60,000 guests.
Every year the business opens its doors for various field trips for the local schools, creating a packed business in the morning hours. The groups commonly range from preschool to high school and offer a very unique, fun and educational experience for students. Mast believes that the teachers and parents who accompany their students have just as much fun enjoying the animals and birds from around the world.
All groups, whether they be families or field trips, will be taken out into the 80-acre animal park by one of the Rolling Ridge's experienced tour guides in a horse-drawn covered wagon. While on the journey the tour guide will point out some of the 600 animals and over 100 species from around the world that are in the beautiful, wooded rolling animal park. The guide will also take time to stop at different points so visitors can feed the animals as they approach the wagon.
Guests are also able to take the tour in their own car, but will not be able to feed the animals if they do so.
Afterward visitors are encouraged to visit the large petting zoo and relax in the picnic area next to the gift shop. This year Mast his looking into building a concession stand so guests won't need to pack their lunches if they get hungry throughout the day.
"The best thing has been our ability to grow from 200 animals," Mast said. "We've been able to add something new every year."
Mast and his staff have met people from all over the world, many who have made Rolling Ridge Ranch a must-stop during their annual visit to Amish country.
"I think we're well-received in the community," Mast said. "Our visitors seem to enjoy what we have to offer. And we help with the local economy."
Visitors who come to the Berlin area are coming for more than a trip to a restaurant, a simple shopping excursion or something fun to do. They're coming for all of that and much more. Not only do visitors want to experience the home-style cooking, local bed and breakfasts, handcrafted furniture, but they want to keep in touch with a simpler way of living and the serenity that Holmes County has to offer.
"I think we all compliment each other well," Mast said.
This year Mast has introduced three new attractions to the Rolling Ridge family - White Buffalo. According to Mast, White Buffalo are a very rare entity and they are not easy to find. He also believes that the newcomers will draw a lot of attention in the upcoming season.
White Buffalo is an American bison, as buffalos are normally brown in color; white buffalo can result from one of several physical conditions: They may be leucistic, with white fur but blue eyes, instead of the pink seen in albinos; they may have a rare genetic condition which causes a buffalo to be born white, but to become brown within a year or two as it matures; they may be albinos, in which case they will remain unpigmented throughout their lives, and may also have hearing and vision problems; they may be beefalo, a bison-cattle crossbreed, and thus have inherited the white coloration from their cattle ancestry. The National Bison Association has estimated that white buffalo only occur in approximately one out of every 10 million births.
Rolling Ridge Ranch is located at 3961 CR 168 in Berlin (between Berlin and Walnut Creek). Business hours are Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. from mid-April through mid-October, depending on the weather (closed on Ascention Day - May 17, 2012). Special rates are available for school field trips. It's recommended that guests make reservations as early as possible. For more information call 330-893-3777 or visit www.visitrollingridge.com.