The Yellow River Game Ranch held a special celebration Thursday to honor 50 years in business in the Stone Mountain and Lilburn area.
Special guests were in attendance, including the founder of the ranch, Art Rilling; Gwinnett County Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, members of the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau, representatives from the Evermore Community Improvement District; Chopper from the Gwinnett Braves (who was inspired by General Beauregard Lee, the weather-forecasting groundhog at the Yellow River Game Ranch) and more.
Rilling, in his 80s, opened the game ranch in 1962. Initially at Stone Mountain Park, the facility moved to its current location in 1982.
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A love for animals and the community is why Rilling opened the business, and why he stuck with it for so long, despite challenges. "There's a lot of fun with it," he said.
"That's the saving thing about this," he said, standing in the facility he built with his on hands. "Of course, we thought we were going to get rich. Everybody does when they start a business, but every day is different. We meet a lot of good people from a real cross-section of the world."
Nash presented a special proclamation to Rilling, which read in part, that the game ranch is "one of the cornerstones of Gwinnett County history and tourism industry."
She also commended the facility for being a place where families can bring children, who can see animals that they may not get to see otherwise, and for being a place that has seen the importance of rescuing animals, as well.
She also gave kudos to General Beauregard Lee, Georgia's official weather prognosticator, for having such a great record at predicting spring.
Codi Reeves, the current owner of the Yellow River Game Ranch, is proud to be a part of the tradition.
"It's really neat to see how many people know about and have been here over the years, " said Codi Reeves, current owner of the game ranch. "Fifty years, there's been a lot folks to come through here."
Moving forward, Reeves hopes "first of all, just to be able to stay open in this economy," to add new exhibits and to continue sharing wildlife with the public in a close and personal setting.
To see previous coverage, click: Yellow River Game Ranch.