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5 birthday party animal experiences

Guests who attended Ella Marscin’s fifth birthday party came to one consensus: the party was epic! That’s mostly due to an appearance by the star of the show at Ella’s Hoffman Estates home – Steve the sloth. Yes, an actual, real live sloth!

Ella’s mom, Amanda, says she “went all out” for her daughter, who has a soft spot for even the tiniest of creatures after her many hours of watching “Wild Kratts” on PBS.

“Initially I thought it was a crazy idea, but when I Googled sloth birthday parties, I saw that they were a thing,” she says. “We’ve never done big things like this for her birthday, but I figured ‘why not’?”

Luckily, there are a growing number of Chicagoland-based services that bring sloths and other animals on the road for birthday celebrations.

We’ve rounded up some of our favorites:

Animal Quest: Education Through Entertainment

Husband and wife duo Steve and Jessica Reedy, who met while working at a zoo, have shared their love for animals at more than 3,000 events since they started Animal Quest in 2011. The most popular birthday party package includes an interactive show and petting zoo, featuring a selection of their 120 animals, which range from hedgehogs, tortoises and snakes to chickens, goats and bunnies.

$245 and up

Cold Blooded Creatures

The “Gator Guy” Jim Nesci, a nationally recognized reptile expert, has been fostering love for reptiles among children and adults for more than 40 years. His hour-long live shows focus on dispelling the myths and superstitions surrounding reptiles. Guests can interact with a tortoise, pose with snakes around their neck, and even ride on the world famous 300-pound Bubba the alligator, the only North American alligator who takes commands from a trainer.

$385 and up depending on location

Flying Fox Conservation Fund

The hour-long “Mammals and More” program includes an encounter with Steve the 7-year-old sloth, plus seven other animals. Choose from a selection of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and insects. At the party, the birthday child can feed Steve his favorite treat – sweet potatoes – while other guests can pet his back and snap selfies. Additionally, Scott Heinrichs, founder and director of Flying Fox Conservation Fund and a former bat keeper, teaches guests about the habits and demeanor of sloths.

$300 and up depending on number of guests and location; 10 percent of fee goes directly towards animal conservation efforts

Forest View Farms

If you supply the children, this family-friendly horse farm and petting zoo will bring everything else for a wild west themed party. The package includes hand-led rides on two ponies and a petting zoo with 10-12 farm animals (goats, sheep, ducks). Kids can pet and feed the animals. For an additional fee, guests can ohhh and ahhh over Charlie the unicorn – Forest View Farm’s most popular animal.

$300 and up

Scales & Tales Traveling Zoo

Birthday guests can interact with Xena, the 30-year-old Central American two-toed sloth, in addition to seven other animals with the most adorable names. Child favorites include Thumper the bunny, Lambchop the baby lamb, Squealer the pot belly pig, and Fink the dancing ferret.

$400 and up depending on the number of guests and location

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.

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