Zoo Man entertains, teaches

Published 3:35 pm Saturday, July 21, 2012

Zoo Man gives the boy a snake beard. The boy read the most books this summer for the "Dream Big" reading program at the Albert Lea Public Library. -- Kessa Albright/Albert Lea Tribune

By Kessa Albright, staff intern

An annual favorite entertainer for children who visit the Albert Lea Public Library performed Thursday.

Children in the audience reach out to pet the snake Zoo Man is holding out to them. -- Kessa Albright/Albert Lea Tribune

Zoo Man was the feature attraction on the final day of the Summer Reading Program, which this year has the theme of “Dream Big.”

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It’s always a mystery what animal Zoo Man will teach the audience about. The kids excitedly watched as he opened his green container. High-pitched screams of delight filled the room as the Zoo Man held a South American milk snake in his hands.

“Who’s a girl and is wearing a pretty ponytail?” Zoo Man asked the audience.

A nervous girl with her hair pulled back into a ponytail walked up to the front of the room. The Zoo Man turned her around and wrapped the snake around her hair.

“Isn’t that such a pretty ponytail?” Zoo Man asks the crowd. The children laughed again.

Along with comedic commentary, Zoo Man educated the children on the snakes. He told the audience all kinds of information about a yellow albino golden Burmese python. Later he asked them questions about the snake and the kids who answered the questions correct got to come up and pet it.

Zoo Man lets a boy hold one of his snakes. The boy was originally scared of the snake and was crying at the beginning of the show. He got used to the snakes and enjoyed the rest of the show. -- Kessa Albright/Albert Lea Tribune

Zoo Man, also known as Brent Meilke, has toured 47 states and done thousands of shows with his animals since 1988. He keeps all his animals in a private zoo he owns and keeps in Sleepy Eye and holds an annual festival there. The Price is Fright festival is in October, and reservations are made for groups of 15 or more, costing $4 per person. People can hold and feed the animals at the zoo.

“Fun, fun stuff,” Meilke said.

When he isn’t on the road, he runs three different health clubs and is a professional bodybuilder and powerlifter.

Meilke loved the animals and children he works with. His favorite animal is the white tail deer. He always wanted one when he was younger but never got one until he became Zoo Man.

A boy volunteers to come to the front of the crowd and hold a snake with Zoo Man. -- Kessa Albright/Albert Lea Tribune

“How can anyone get tired of talking to people about animals? This is not a job that I hate going to every day,” Meilke said. “This isn’t work. I enjoy traveling and meeting new people. I love my job.”