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Bobbie Jo Abrams will be taking her family to the Wilson County Fair this week — the two-legged kind and the four-legged ones as well.
The Abrams family owns It’s a Zoo Life, located on N.C. 42 near Pinetops. The petting zoo, featuring a variety of exotic animals including kangaroos and a sloth, was featured this year on TLC’s “Our Wild Life.”
For a few years now, It’s a Zoo Life animals have made an appearance at the Wilson fair, taking up residence for a week in the barn behind the exhibit halls.
The animals will be back this year, along with many of the popular reality show’s stars.
On Thursday, from 6 to 8 p.m., cast members from the show plan to be at the fair as well, including Bobbie Jo (perhaps with her umbrella cockatoo CoCo) and her husband, Jerry; and their children, Hali, Kasi and Jaxon. Hali’s fiance, Dillon Lancaster, also plans to be there. And Janice Mercer, better known as Naa Naa, will be attending too. Some family members will be back, including Naa Naa and Jaxon, at the fair on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The family will be in and out all week, Bobbie Jo said.
Mercer, who has been Jaxon’s nanny since he was a baby, is quite popular at all appearances. On the show and in person, “Naa Naa” is quick to voice her opinion, especially when it concerns having exotic animals in the house; she doesn’t approve.
“I’m just being me,” she said in a recent interview at the Abrams family home.
A number of the zoo’s popular animals will be at the fair this week, including Rachael Ray the donkey, who is portrayed on the show as an escape artist. “There will be extra security to keep her in place,” Bobbie Jo said.
Those who watch “Our Wild Life” will also recognize Belt the sloth, who joined the family in last season’s shows, and kangaroos Sugar Ray and Skipper. Visitors can also see a black belly four-horn Jacob goat family, tortoises, alpacas and Peter Rabbit, a Flemish giant rabbit.
Bobbie Jo takes the zoo animal all over to zoos and festivals in the region.
“Our calendar is always full,” she said.
Visitors also go to the zoo, by appointment, to see the animals up close.
Since the show first aired, the zoo has seen traffic from all over the country and beyond. The Abrams family recalls visitors from Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Minnesota, Canada, Norway and Spain.
The Abramses and Mercer are often spotted when they are out and about, too.
“No matter where we go,” Mercer said. “Every day, people recognize me.” And they want to take photos.
This summer, on a mission trip to Kentucky, Jerry said he was recognized at a gas station. “We really love your show,” the fan told Jerry, whose family owns Abrams restaurants. Jerry, who played golf at Barton College, says he used to manage the Wilson store.
With the show’s popularity, Bobbie Jo said they have been able to use their new resources to make improvements at the zoo, including the addition of bathrooms for visitors.
There are no definite plans yet for a second season of “Our Wild Life,” but they are in negotiations, the couple said.
Zoo visits are by reservation only, Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Visit www.itsazoolife.com to make a reservation.
Fair HOURS AND TICKETS
Gates open at the Wilson County on Wednesday — a day late, thanks to Hurricane Florence — at 4 p.m. The fair begins at 4 p.m. on weekdays, noon on Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
This year, tickets are available online at WAWTix.com. When you arrive at the fair, show the attendant at the ticket booth the bar code from your online ticket purchase. If you have also purchased a ride wristband in advance, you will be given a ticket at the admission ticket booth that can be redeemed at a Big Rock ticket booth for a wristband.
Admission is $7. Kids 5 and under get in free; there’s a maximum of three kids per paid adult admission. Wristbands for rids are $22.
The baked goods auction is 7 p.m. Wednesday. Kids Day is Wednesday as well. Up to three school kids are admitted free with a paying adult.
On Thursday, get $2 off admission with three cans of food going to the Flynn Christian Fellowship Home.
If you take a church bulletin on Sunday, the church gets a $2 donation.
For more information, call 252-237-8443.