Dane County Executive Falk Opens American Prairie Exhibit at Henry Vilas Zoo
August 29, 2006
Henry Vilas Zoo is where the buffalos roam, the badger burrows and the prairie dogs dig thanks to a new two-acre prairie exhibit officially opened today by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk who credited the generosity of a longtime Madison business leader and his affection for the free public park.
Called the George A. Fait North American Prairie, the exhibit hugs the zoo’s southern border on Wingra Drive and serves as the new digs for the long-clawed badger, a comical colony of posing prairie dogs and three impressive bison.
“This exhibit is living education for zoo fans of any age,” Falk said of the exhibit that also includes a rain garden and prairie plants. “And it also honors Mr. Fait and his 20-year history of donations to our zoo.”
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz also praised the exhibit. “The Vilas Zoo is already one of Madison’s best attractions, and this new exhibit makes a good thing even better,” he said.
Mr. Fait, a retired insurance company executive, made the $1.4 million donation in December on behalf of himself and his three children – Joel Fait, Diane Zilner and Leslie Farmer. Mr. Fait is a retired insurance company president who founded the Capitol Indemnity Corp. in 1959 which eventually became the Capitol Transamerica Corp. and was owned by the Allegheny Corp. at the time of his retirement.
Zoo Director Jim Hubing said no funds from the county levy were used for this exhibit. “Our new North American Prairie is a terrific addition,” Hubing said. “Visitors can enjoy seeing prairie animals and plants in a beautiful habitat.”
Falk said the goal was to open the exhibit weeks ago. “But the bison had other ideas,” she said. “We learned one thing. If a bison doesn’t want to move, well, there’s no moving a bison,” Falk said of the three huge animals that opted to spend their summer on the other side of the zoo no matter how much cajoling by the staff. “So we waited, and we waited some more. But somehow, they got the message life was pretty good over here in their new home. And they seem to agree.”
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Joanne Haas, 267-8823 or 669-5606