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RACINE— The Racine Zoo has hit a significant milestone in 2023 as they have operated in Racine County for a century. Over the past 100 years, the Racine Zoo has served as a building block in the community and a stepping stone in the city’s story.

To celebrate the success, a Centennial Celebration is set for July 5 at the zoo, 2131 N. Main St.

Racine Zoo 100th birthday celebration
The Vanishing Kingdom building at the Racine Zoo. – Credit: Racine Zoo

Beth Heidorn has been the Executive Director of the Racine Zoo since 2015.

“What I love about the zoo and why it’s so endearing is that since the beginning, this zoo has been a community zoo,” she said.

Zoo history

Jacob Stoffel, Jr.’s dream was transformed in 1923 into reality when the Racine Zoo first opened its doors at Island Park.

In 1924, the Racine Zoo moved to Lakeview Park and then the Racine Zoo found its forever home in 1925 at its current location.

During that period, the Racine Zoological Society was also formed and the zoo became a nonprofit.

Racine Zoo 100th birthday celebration
The Racine Zoological Park sign – Photo courtesy of Racine Zoo

The Racine Zoo started with a pair of deer and three monkeys and throughout the past 100 years has grown to become an Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA)-accredited zoo and home to over 75 unique species and over 300 individual animals from Wisconsin and around the world.

“The fact that we’re accredited with AZA, it’s a big deal,” said Heidorn. “We’re one of 241 (zoos that are) accredited. To have an accredited zoo in a smaller town, such as Racine, is phenomenal for everyone. People appreciate that they have this high-quality zoo in their town.”

More than a zoo

Racine Zoo 100th birthday celebration
Guests enjoy ice skating at the Zoo Pond. – Credit: Gerald Karwowski

The Racine Zoo has not only been a space for animals to thrive, but also has become a place for families, loved ones and community members to partake in various events and activities.

The zoo has been the foundation for 100 years’ worth of memories.

Heidorn explained that throughout the past year, the Racine Zoo has taken submissions of photos and collected stories from community members. Through this opportunity, the staff has heard stories such as:

  • Lovers sharing their first kiss at the bridge at the zoo
  • People attending concerts through the Animal Cracker series
  • People uniting in marriage on the grounds
  • Grandparents growing up at the zoo and now taking their grandchildren to the same grounds
  • And countless other stories

“People have supported (the zoo’s mission),” Heidorn said. “It just means the world to us that we are here and it means a great deal to me that I’m here at a zoo that is celebrating its 100th year.”

Photos and stories can still be sent to with a date and description of the media, if possible.

These photos and stories may be featured on the zoo’s centennial website, social media platforms, or around the grounds as the celebration continues throughout the year.

Racine Zoo 100th birthday celebration
Guests at the zoo get their picture taken with the tulips. – Photo courtesy of Racine Zoo

The big party

As a specific date of the zoo’s opening is unknown other than opening in the summer, the zoo has chosen to continue the fun in Racine with a party as large as an elephant and grand as a lion’s roar on July 5 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The 12 hours of fun will feature all-day ice cream, music by Blackwater Band and J. Ryan Trio, children’s activities, Zoo Choo rides, animal chats, family-friendly entertainment, and more. A full schedule of events is available online.

“The zoo has already created thousands and thousands of memories,” said Heidorn. “And every day, we do the same thing, so we want people to come here we want people to create their own memories when they come to this zoo – whatever that means to them.”

The Centennial Celebration is the space and place for memory-making as the Racine Zoo celebrates the past 100 years and cheers to another 100 more.

The next 100 years

“Continue to support the zoo and everything that we do here. Whether it is you coming out for a family picnic, you coming to the zoo as your location, or you coming to our 36th annual animal crackers concert series. Every time you step foot in the zoo and participate in an event or just come to showcase the zoo to your friends visiting from Canada, that means the world to us,” she said.

It’s people showing up for the Racine Zoo that got the zoo through its first 100 years, and it’s that same support that will carry it through its next century.

Another way people can support is through donations.

“Every nickel counts here,” explained Heidorn. We are a nonprofit zoo that relies on our wonderful community support.”

  • Racine Zoo 100th birthday celebration
  • Racine Zoo 100th birthday celebration
  • Racine Zoo 100th birthday celebration
  • Racine Zoo 100th birthday celebration
  • Racine Zoo 100th birthday celebration

As much of a celebration of the animals, educational opportunities, and the work of the zoo, 2023 is about celebrating the community in its entirety.

“We are incredibly thankful for the support in the past and we will be as incredibly thankful for the support that we are going to get as we step into the next century,” shared the Executive Director.

More information

For more information on the Racine Zoo’s Centennial Celebration visit the zoo’s website.

Current hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the last admission at 3:30 p.m. For more information on the Racine Zoo, its programs, and events, visit or call 262-636-9189.

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