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Remembering Lion Country Safari – Throwback Thursday

Lion-Country-Safari-Irvine (2)People who grew up in Southern California fondly remember the theme parks of their youth – including Lion Country Safari. The original Lion Country park opened in Loxahatchee, Florida in 1969 near West Palm Beach. The drive-it-yourself safari park was an instant success; so much so, that additional locations across the United States were scouted by the company, and the second park opened just a year later in 1970, in the foothills that create the Irvine/Laguna Hills border in Orange County.

Lion Country Safari in Irvine thrived for many years and was welcomed by neighboring attractions such as Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Movieland Wax Museum, and the Japanese Village and Deer Park. The company itself experienced extremely aggressive growth, and other LCS parks opened around the US, including properties in Texas, Virginia, and Ohio.

Shortly after opening, Lion Country Safari purchased an old lion from a travelling Mexican circus, and in a brilliant twist of fate, a character that at one time, rivaled Mickey Mouse’s celebrity was the center of attention in Irvine – Frasier, the Sensuous Lion! Frasier was old, and was missing most of his teeth; this caused his tongue to hang out of his mouth most of the time. Yet, he was a lover not a fighter – and the company’s Vice President and PR guru, Jerry Kobrin, developed Frasier’s hot-blooded persona as a mean, lean sex machine! In part, it was truth – and even lionesses would help prop Frasier up while the big cat mated with his pride; he sired many offspring.

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