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Rosamond Gifford Zoo has banner year

Ellen Abbott

Last year was a record year for attendance at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse. Several factors combined to make the zoo the place to go last year.

Zoo officials say there were double and triple digit increases in zoo attendance in certain months last year -- the biggest in February, when attendance increased by more than 100 percent from the year before. Zoo director Ted Fox admits last winter's unseasonably warm weather made a difference.

"We had weather in the 50s and 60s and sunny. We typically see a couple hundred people day, if that. But we had numbers in the thousands almost every weekend," said Fox.

But it wasn't just the weather. Numbers also went up in May and August, and Fox attributes that to a large number of babies born in the zoo, as well as some new exhibits opening up. He also says a tough economy keeps more families looking for budget friendly activities. And the zoo is now attracting visitors from beyond the central New York.

"It's mostly local, but we are expanding all the time. We've been doing some reaching out to people across the border in Canada, and recently we've gotten some visitors from there," said Fox.

The total number of visitors was more than 372,000 thousand -- the most in more than 15 years and an increase of more than eight percent from 2011.  Fox admits it'll be hard to beat this perfect storm scenario; however he notes that there were 4,000 people visiting the zoo this past weekend. And, the zoo is in the midst of a one million dollar renovation project that among other things, will create a new entrance to the facility on Syracuse's west side.