In ILLINOISouth there are so many people who make the region what it is. We are talking about local business owners, volunteers, and community leaders who pour their heart and soul into making southern Illinois great. In our ‘Meet a Local’ series, we are focusing on the amazing cast of characters that call ILLINOISouth home.
Tucked away in the middle of Washington County there is a place bursting with happiness. Rainbow Ranch Petting Zoo is one of the most fun places in ILLINOISouth for two reasons. The first is because this 172-year-old farm is full of awesome animals. You can pet camels and bottle-feed baby goats, there’s even an opportunity to feed kangaroos. The second reason why this place is so great is simply, it’s owner. Alan Blumhorst is one of the most outgoing people you will meet, and he has never really met a stranger. From the moment you arrive at Rainbow Ranch he treats you and your family like he’s known you forever. Honestly, he asks the names of folks before he takes them on a tour of the farm, and by the time the tour is over, you’re all on a first name basis. Alan often tells people that he has the best job in the world, and the way he acts while he’s on the job – you can tell he believes that in his heart.
From the moment you walk through the gate at Rainbow Ranch, you immediately see just how much Alan loves to show off his animals to visitors. He has a long-running routine with Max the Macaw, and within five minutes it’s apparent that the animals love Alan as much as he loves them. He takes the time to give nearly every animal on the farm a name, because they’re like family to him. Scratch that, they ARE family to him. He provides an amazing experience for visitors because he is such a wealth of knowledge. On top of that, he offers additional things that draw people to his farm seasonally. Each spring he hosts Baby Bonanza, it’s the time of the year where all of his baby animals have been born, so he allows guests to bottle feed them if they’d like. How many other places do that for visitors? In the fall, he gives out free pumpkins to visitors because it makes folks happy. One of Alan’s patented lines is that he sells smiles. It’s a perfect description, because it’s impossible not to spend time on his farm and not crack a grin at least a few times.
It's also apparent to see just how much Alan cares about Rainbow Ranch in terms of tradition. 2022 marks their 20th anniversary which is nothing to scoff at. Even more impressive is that it is one of the country’s oldest working farms. Alan is proud of the fact that his farm was designated as the 83rd oldest family-owned business in the ENTIRE nation. Suffice it to say, Alan encapsulates what southern Illinoisans are all about, he’s hardworking, kind, and extremely hospitable. He makes ILLINOISouth a better place, not just for visitors, but for others who call southern Illinois home.
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