It all started with a fawn and a raccoon.
The Associated Humane Societies and Popcorn Park began their venture in Lacey 35 years ago as a dog and cat shelter and adoption center, servicing the local community and area.
“We wanted to become a better service,” Director John Bergmann said, adding that people typically had to go up to the Tinton Falls location to get their dogs or cats. “We wanted to expand and do a better job.”
While the nonprofit organization was building in Lacey in 1977, a fawn was picked up and had to be bottle fed and cared for, he said.
Then, the staff received a call from Beachwood about a raccoon that was stuck in a leg hold trap. Without veterinary staff in place locally, the raccoon had to go further north. The leg was infected and as a result, amputated.
Those over at the Associated Humane Societies in Lacey began building an area for the raccoon and the fawn. Then, a swan came in and they built a pond.
“For our opening, we had the animals there. It grew from there,” Bergmann said.
Calls to Popcorn Park increased quickly and eventually exotic animals started to come in.
“It just snowballed into what it is today. We didn’t see that happening. We didn’t know where we would be today,” he said.
Today, there are approximately 200 animals at Popcorn Park including lions and tigers.
Most recently, the park took another swan in and helped rescue a snapping turtle that was struck by a car on Route 9. The shell was okay but the reptile had to have its jaw wired together. He continues to progress, Bergmann said.
“We’re happy to be able to provide them with a home,” he said. “It’s great. I’ve been here this whole time. I’ve seen what it was; what it is today. I’ve seen a lot of animals come and go.”
At Popcorn Park, those animals that have come and gone lived lives where the staff helped, communicated with and comforted them, Bergmann said.
“I’m proud of that fact,” he said.
The shelter is unique in that it takes in animals that no one else wants and gives patrons a greater heart towards them, he said.
“When you go to Popcorn Park, people walk out of there with compassion for the animals,” he said.
The park will be celebrating its 35th anniversary with a series of events, beginning Saturday, Sept. 22 and Sunday, Sept. 23 with a craft and vendor fair. Crafters and vendors are being accepted through Thursday.
The day will also feature animal related demonstrations such as bite work, obedience, bed bug detection and agility by Hamlin K-9.
On Saturday, Sept. 29, Popcorn Park will be holding it So Long Summer Yard Sale and another craft and vendor fair with the Fun Festival on Sunday, Sept. 30. The Fun Festival will include food, shopping, pet-related businesses, a magician and fun for the kids such as face painting, pumpkin painting, games and entertainment.
Snakes-N-Scales will also present a Radical Reptiles show at noon on Sunday, Sept. 30. Hulafrog, a website dedicated to moms and kids looking for activities to do on weekends, will also be featured.
All festivities will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission to each of the events is simply general admission to Popcorn Park.
“There are great things to do. People should come out and have a good time before the weather gets too cold,” Renee Szorosy of the Associated Humane Societies and Popcorn Park said. “It’s for a great cause. We just want people to come out and celebrate our 35th anniversary with us.”
For more information or to apply as a vendor call 609-693-1900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.