85 years at Reptile Gardens

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — For 85 years, Reptile Gardens in Speedy Metropolis has seen hundreds of thousands of individuals stroll by its door.

It’s your typical March climate out right here within the Black Hills.. however that’s not stopping company from visiting Reptile Gardens.

Gabriel Michaloski, his spouse Jennifer, and their son Mark braved the snow to be one of many first guests of the yr.

“We thought rain or shine we’re doing this. We’re going to Reptile Gardens, we’re going to test it out. And this little man hasn’t been right here but both so it’s going to be a great time,” Gabriel Michaloski stated.

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That is Mark and Gabriel’s first time visiting the gardens, and you’ll see the thrill on their faces.

“Spiders!” Mark Michaloski stated.

“We’ve been driving previous this for thus lengthy, going out to the hills, going out to Mount Rushmore and each time we’d look by, we’d say, ‘sometime, sometime we’ll see it.’” Gabriel stated.

“Yeah, tremendous excited to see it and hopefully, will probably be the primary of a number of instances this summer time,” Jennifer stated.

Reptile Gardens usher in over 1,000,000 guests every year. Barbara Mullally works ticket gross sales.

“On the time once I began, I used to be a instructor and so I might work my summer time holidays right here at Reptile Gardens and I take pleasure in visiting with individuals, assembly individuals from everywhere in the nation, actually. And so this has been a great job for me,” Mullally stated.

She’s been working on the attraction for over 30 years and says it’s getting extra in style every year.

“We’re busy, particularly final yr was a busy yr for us,” Mullally stated.

From snakes and spiders to alligators and lizards, this Speedy Metropolis staple has been catching individuals’s consideration since 1937.

It was based by Earl Brockelsby and continues to be run by members of the family, together with his nephew, Joe Maierhauser.

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“Properly again within the 30s, my uncle was working excursions at a spot up the hill referred to as ‘Hidden Metropolis.’ He’d all the time been fascinated by reptiles, grew up in Kadoka the place there was a number of snakes and he even had a pet rattlesnake. Which he would coil up on the highest of his head and put his hat on after which on the finish of the tour of this place, he would doth his hat for all of the vacationers and naturally, they went wild,” Maierhauser stated.

And from that, Brockelsby determined to create Reptile Gardens. Maierhauser has labored right here for almost his entire life.

“I used to be born into this enterprise. It’s a household enterprise and so my mom was right here on opening day in 1937 along with her brother Early who began the enterprise and I’m right here in the present day,” Maierhauser stated.

Over the a long time, Maierhauser has seen Reptile Gardens transfer, shift and develop in methods he’s by no means thought doable. Together with final yr’s foot site visitors.

“Properly final yr was an anomaly. Initially we have been again in the direction of city, above Speedy Metropolis on the hill. Once they moved the freeway within the early 60s, we moved down right here and opened this place in 1965 and it gave us much more acreage, much more room to develop and we simply proceed to develop yr after yr. We’ve simply change into a vacation spot now,” Maierhauser stated.

Because the enterprise will get busier, Maierhauser hopes to proceed seeing guests, just like the Michaloskis, proceed to come back again every year.

“To look at it develop, it’s very gratifying and the truth that so many individuals love what we do, it feels actually good to our household,” Maierhauser stated.

And so Maierhauser’s Uncle Earl, might be happy with the Speedy Metropolis relic that can stick round for a few years to come back.

Reptile Gardens opened for the season on March fifth. It closes for the winter on November thirtieth.

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