After two decades of providing the Eastern Idaho State Fair with its petting zoo, McKee’s Pet, Garden and Feed Center has been replaced.
The fair board decided to bring in a national petting zoo called Meet the Animals, and the decision sparked a Facebook fire storm.
Local people said they want local businesses represented at the fair, but, the plans aren’t changing, said Eastern Idaho State Fair General Manager Brandon Bird.
McKee’s owner, Jim McKee, said he wanted to get one thing straight: Yes, he is disappointed, but no, he’s not angry at the decision — despite his history there.
“Oh heavens, we’ve been up there for I’d say 20 to 25 years. My kids were raised up there, and most of them are married with kids,” McKee said.
For many, the McKee’s petting zoo is as traditional as a tiger ear. But they won’t be seeing the trademark baby goats around the grounds this year. McKee said he got a letter earlier this summer dictating the switch, and he didn’t really know why.
“I’m assuming they’re trying to make some changes in the fair,” he said.
Bird said that’s right. The change is not happening because he and McKee have been butting heads, Bird just wants to make the 110th anniversary of the fair as big as it can be.
“We’re bringing sharks, we’re bringing more hands-on exhibits for the children to play with and have fun with, some of our prices are lower than they’ve ever been, and so we’re just excited to be celebrating our 110th anniversary,” Bird said.
But a lot of people are against the decision, saying the fair should be supporting Idaho businesses. Bird said, they do: 80 percent of the vendors at the fair are local. Bird does understand people’s anger, though.
“People love the fair,” he said. “We understand why people are a little bit upset.”
McKee wants everyone to know his business will still be at the fair as a vendor booth — they were given the spot for free– and the petting zoo is still open in Chubbuck. Hopefully, he said, things will go back to normal next year.
“Change is hard for everybody and, who knows, we might be back up there next year and doing the same thing,” McKee said.
Bird did say people will see the McKee’s petting zoo at the fair in the future.