WINSTON — Instead of the annual Reading Fair, this year’s grand finale to the Celebration of Literacy included a free visit to Wildlife Safari with books and stories, which took place Saturday.

By noon, there was a 1.5-mile traffic jam to get into the wildlife park, and it took patrons about an hour to get from Highway 42 to the entrance booth.

Celebration of Literacy chair Maxine Durst said, “It’s been a success. We didn’t expect this.”

Durst, co-chair Mary Marshall and members of the Umpqua Community College athletic teams were on hand to give books to Douglas County children visiting the park. By 1:30 p.m. they were nearly out of books.

Wildlife Safari Marketing Assistant Michael Burns said, “Celebrate Literacy was a very successful day! We believe it’s a great way to help get kids excited about the wonders of reading, while also getting them excited to learn about the world and the exciting animals that call it home. I’d have to say this was probably our most successful Celebrate Literacy yet!”

Burns said 3,268 people visited the park Saturday, a big influx from the usual 500 to 600 guests during the weekends at this time of the year.

“Spring break tends to be one of the busiest times of the year, but still not quite as packed as Saturday, February 20th,” he added.

Marshall said the first book giveaway event saw nearly 2,000 books distributed to children throughout the county and Saturday’s event saw another 600 go to families.

Families were able to go through the drive-thru and visit the Safari Village.

Inside the Safari Village, there was a Strolling Story Time presented by Roseburg Public Library.

The book “Who Hops?” by Katie Davis, which discusses the features and abilities of several different animals was displayed throughout the park. People could read the book as they made their way through to visit the animals on display.

Wildlife Safari is currently open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will change to it spring and summer schedule on March 13 with longer hours.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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