Route 66 News

Exotic Animal Paradise will open under new name

According to a Marshfield (Mo.) Mail story posted today, the new owner of the land where the Exotic Animal Paradise once sat off Route 66 in Strafford is going to reopen the attraction as Animal Paradise Family Fun Park.

The planned reopening is April 1, despite a recent ice storm that damaged many of the park’s trees and cut power. The owner, Tony Oddo, has set up a Web site, GoAnimalParadise.com, that promises to be updated with more information.

Oddo anticipates being granted licensure from the United States Department of Agriculture after having performed changes and updates on fences and gating structures according to the department’s suggestions.

“We’ve gutted and remodeled everything and we’re going like mad to get ‘paradise’ open,” said Oddo. “There’s just so much maintenance that we’re just busy, busy, busy.”

The park will include elements similar to the old park but will be revamped in the attempt to make the park a premier tourist destination in the region once again.

“It just needed a shave and a haircut and maybe a facelift,” said Oddo. “But it’ll soon be more like a carnival atmosphere and, I hate to say it, but maybe like Silver Dollar City but on a smaller scale.”

Animals will be making an appearance at the park later this month on a lease agreement from an owner in Buffalo and will include wildebeests, zebras, llamas, ostriches and monkeys. Large, wild cats such as lions and tigers will not be part of the park, at least for now.

Along with the famous drive-through animal park, there will also be a petting zoo, a go-cart track, an 18-hole miniature golf course with water hazards and waterfalls, craft and vendor booths, restaurants and more, the owner said. And, down the road, Oddo has plans for additional items to be integrated such as batting cages, bumper boats, an arcade and a Route 66 Sweet Shop. […]

The animal park will also be open for the first time to independent businesses to incorporate local professionals to participate in the reconstruction as caterers, gift vendors, crafters and more. Oddo hopes to add craftsmen such as glass blowers and silver jewelry makers, along with homemade candy shops and kettle corn concessions to the mix. […]

Oddo’s long-range vision for the location also includes hopes for gas stations, hotels, restaurants and more.

Much of the original Exotic Animal Paradise, which wasn’t profitable in its final years, was sold to make way for a luxury housing development, and the animals were auctioned. It had been reported late last summer that Oddo might reopen the animal park in some fashion. Now it looks like it’s going to happen.

The fact Oddo is trying to fix up the property and is trying to diversify its revenue sources makes me cautiously optimistic.