Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Dane County Executive Parisi Announces Highest Attendance at Henry Vilas Zoo Ever

December 28, 2015
Contact: Stephanie Miller 608-267-8823
County Executive

                                                   Crowds Love to Welcome Polar Bears for Their First Holiday Season

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced recently that Dane County’s Henry Vilas Zoo will have the highest attendance ever in one year with 933,626 visitors so far this year and few days yet to go. This is more than a 20% increase from any other year on record. Also, he celebrated the polar bears first holiday season with the Dane County Henry Vilas Zoo.

The bear twins - Suka and Sakari - from the Como Zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota came to their new home in Arctic Passage earlier in 2015.  The Henry Vilas Zoo houses two of only 61 polar bears in AZA-accredited zoos in North America.

Arctic passage has brought almost a million visitors to the Dane County Henry Vilas Zoo this year,” County Executive Joe Parisi said.  “The polar bears have loved being in Dane County and we are thrilled to celebrate their first holiday season with them here at the Henry Vilas Zoo.”

Arctic Passage is the largest expansion in the Zoo’s 104-year history, covering more than 1.7 acres.  It provides guests with beautiful new, naturalistic environments for polar bears, grizzly bears and harbor seals.  These exhibits enable zoo guests to see the seals swim underwater, the polar bears sleep in their den and a grizzly bear catch a fish from a stream.  The Arctic Passage also features special new education, conservation and sustainability features that continue the zoo’s leadership in these areas.

This tremendous success comes from the hard work of the very dedicated partnership between the County, Zoo and the non-profit support group, Friends of the Zoo,” said Ronda Schwetz, Zoo Director. “Without this teamwork, including support from volunteers and guests, we would not have achieved this benchmark.”

As part of Arctic Passage, the Zoo has its first-ever indoor restaurant called “Glacier Grille.”  It provides guests with stunning views of the polar bear yard and revenue from the restaurant directly supports the zoo.

Henry Vilas Zoo will be open 9:30 to noon for the holidays and regular hours of 9:30 to 5:00 for non-holidays.