SYRACUSE — The Syracuse Fall Festival will be hosting the appearance of Animal Grams, a petting zoo from rural North Manchester that has a wide variety of miniature and regular sized animals of 20 different species. From fainting goats and baby doll sheep to reindeer and mini donkeys, Animal Grams is certain to make everyone’s hearts melt.
Across 36 years, Animal Grams has evolved into a beautiful business that shares the joys of animal companionship with others. Joni Cripe started Animal Grams when she was attending college, pursuing her degree in psychology. Cripe explained, “I loved the training aspect of animals. They didn’t really have animal behavior and analysis as a course when I was in college. I’ve trained animals since I was 12, teaching them tricks and putting on shows. Then it just kind of evolved from that into a petting farm.”
Cripe takes Animal Grams to events such as birthday parties, church events, fairs and festivals. She hasn’t had a weekend off in 30 years after the farm became mobile. While most of her business events take place in Fort Wayne, she covers any event within a hundred mile radius.
Cripe has created many personalized ornaments for her animals and for kids. For pig races, she created a small portable track that the pigs will run on, taking frequent breaks for their comfort and health during the hotter months. Cripe has made ribbons for the winners of the pig races, promoting a positive competitive atmosphere.
Choosing animals that are safe and well-behaved stems from Cripe handling and impressioning them when they’re very young. Cripe elaborated, “If you get them when they’re young and just weaned from their mothers, you can control the environment that they’re in and make sure that nothing bad happens to them. It’s better to handle them when they’re young compared to an animal who may snap from past experiences. We’ve never had an issue.”
Cripe’s husband, Phillip, runs a farm, which provides plenty of room for her special animals. Cripe’s children helped her through their childhood and teenage years, which inspired them to open their own businesses.
Cripe has all of the necessary licenses to ensure the safety of her animals and the people who interact with them, never receiving a claim against Animal Grams. She advises that people keep their hands away from the animals’ faces and to never pick them up unless authorized.
“It’s funny,” Cripe laughed. “People will put their hands in a goat’s or horse’s face like they would a dog, like they need to sniff it. This animal has no idea what you’re doing.”
While Cripe’s passion lies with animals, she doesn’t just run Animal Grams because of her love for animals. She loves to see children enjoying them as well, when their face lights up on their first pony ride or when they see a llama for the first time. Children will be able to experience and interact with many animals at the upcoming Syracuse Fall Festival.
Two-year-old Allie Titus is excited for her first pony ride with Jirni Cripe who will lead her around safely.