One of my fondest memories growing up was the vacation my grandparents took me on to Sea World. I was about 6 years old and it was my first time to a park with sea animals. Oh boy was I excited! Back in 1983, Sea World was a lot different than it is now. I don’t remember there being any rides. I just remember walking around this huge park and seeing all the animals. There were so many first for me on this trip. First time I’d ever seen a whale in captivity or any sea animal. Back in Minnesota we only had the Como Zoo at the time. And the only sea life there was Sparky the Seal. While sea lions are fun to watch, they cannot compare to a Killer Whale.
I remember the day pretty clearly, it had been a long morning and we were taking a break. My grandmother had decided we were going to watch the Killer Whale show so we found some seats (out of the splash zone) and sat there patiently for the show to start. After a while, a Sea World employee approached my grandmother. I didn’t’ think anything of it at the time. I was bored and just wanted the show to start!
Little did I know, my grandmother and this lady were talking about me! She was offering us the opportunity for me to part of the show! Can you believe it? At just 6 years old I was going to be brought up on stage, in front all these people, and get to see a Killer Whale up close! I was so excited.
When the time came for me to be part of the show I became nervous. After all, I was just a little kid and these whales are huge! To me, they looked like giants. But I really wanted to be part of the show so I walked up to the platform. It was so cool! I got to stand right next to Shamu!!! Then he opened his mouth and I realized I could fit inside of it. That was cool and terrifying at the same time.
They let me feed Shamu a few fish. I remember they were cold, wet and slimy. They even offered me a squid to feed him, but that where I drew the line. No way was I going to touch a squid! It looked so gross!! I just tossed a few fish in Shamu’s mouth to reward him for being such a good boy.
Then the trainer told me I could hug him! I that was exciting. So I gave Shamu a little hug. You have to remember he’s a giant and I’m a twerp so I really didn’t want to latch on to the fella but I sure wanted to touch him. Then they let me pet his nose. It felt like a rubbery smooth surface. It was so neat! And the last thing I remember is they asked if I would like to pet his tongue and see what it felt like. Again, that big, huge mouth opened up. I was scared, but I still did it! I think it was the fastest touch ever. And I don’t even remember what his tongue felt like. But I am one of the few kids that can say they met Shamu, fed him, hugged him and petted him . It’s a memory I will never forget.
This fall I’m taking Peyton to Sea World in Orlando and I can hardly wait! We went 2 years ago but Peyton fell asleep. So this time, I am making sure we go early in our trip so she still has energy. I hope she loves Sea World as much as I do!