By AMANDA C. DAVIS
Rosemary Wagner appreciates everything that Mill Creek MetroParks has to offer. The Youngstown woman, who is laid off from her job as a pipe fitter apprentice, tries to take advantage of the park’s beauty and free programs as often as possible.
She was one of thousands to attend Sunday’s 17th annual farm animal Baby Shower at the parks’ farm along state Route 46 across from the Canfield Fairgrounds.
Wagner attended with children Isabella, 9, Lorelei, 8, one-year-old Achilles, and neighbor Nina Mayer, 13.
“We come every year,” she said. “Youngstown in general and the park have always provided free, educational and entertaining events for adults, children and families.”
The weather and economy played a role in attendance, which was expected to reach about 6,000, according to Brenda Markley, the farm’s agricultural facilities manager.
The shower is the farm’s official open house, an event that started in 1992 with an attendance of 1,200. The hands-on educational event is always a popular season-opener, allowing children to learn about animals and parents to take pictures.
“It’s a kickoff event for our tour season,” Markley said, explaining school tours are offered by appointment during the week, and families can tour on weekends.
Traci and Todd Lu of Lowelville took four of their five children to see the baby animals.
“The kids enjoy this, and it’s something to do in the area,” Traci said. She noted that free events help the family’s bottom line. “That’s always nice, especially when you have a big family.”
Tony and Susan Pannunzio of Canfield have been to the farm before with their kids but it was their first time attending the baby shower. Tony Jr., 5, and Gianna, 3, enjoyed free cake while their one-month-old brother Joey enjoyed a nap in his stroller.
“The kids always like seeing animals,” Susan said, adding that the family doesn’t have pets.
“No, we come here to enjoy them,” her husband said, with a laugh.
The event left an impression on many of the children who ran around and stood patiently in long lines to see animals including llamas, donkeys, pigs, cows, sheep and ducks.
“I wish I could take him home with me,” said 3-year-old Jack Davis of Canfield while holding a baby chick. The energetic boy, led by his excitement, kept straying from his mother, Heidi, in search of different animals.
She explained that the baby duck needed to stay with his mommy. “It’s like you and me Jack,” she said. “The chick needs to stay with his mother and you need to stay here with me.”
Three generations of the Petruzzi family continued the tradition of visiting area farm animals in different programs. Marcy Petruzzi of Boardman said she often took her daughter Leah Petruzzi to see animals when she was a little girl.
Leah and her daughter Gianna, 4, are animal lovers, a trait that Marcy said they must have inherited from her husband. Growing up, the family always had animals including ducks, chicks, snakes, fish and turtles, Leah said.
“We had wild Mallard ducks living in our backyard,” she explained.
Sisters Cristen Nutt, 3, and Mikayla Nutt, 5, of Struthers, brought a loaf of bread to feed the animals but weren’t allowed. They nibbled on slices while waiting in line to see the animals.
The girls were chaperoned by family friend Dave Williams of Canfield, who is known to them as “Grandpa Dave.”
“They’ve enjoyed every minute of this today,” he said.