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DECATUR — The heat was on Sunday, but Scovill Zoo had it covered with something for everyone: ice cream for the human bipeds and goodies like frozen fish ice cubes for the Humboldt penguins.

“The penguins were kind of scared of them,” said Ken Frye, the zoo's director. “But we had a big 5-gallon bucket of frozen fruit for the camels, they liked that, and the tortoises just get blocks of ice cubes; they love to chew those ice cubes and get misted — they love to be misted.”

Sunday marked the zoo’s annual Ice Cream Safari, a tradition stretching back more than a dozen years. Visitors braving temperatures in the upper 80s enjoyed watching the animals cool down with specialized treats while lapping up some cool fare of their own. Ice cream stations set up around the zoo handed out free cones in chocolate, vanilla, cookies and cream, strawberry and orange sherbet.

Some 48 gallons of ice cream had been donated by Prairie Farms Dairy, and it disappeared fast as a packed zoo parking lot spoke to the throng of visitors making the attraction their family day out.

“I was kind of worried today weatherwise (the chance of storms) and also heatwise, but I’m very happy that all these people turned out for our Ice Cream Safari,” Frye said.

And continuing another Scovill Zoo tradition, the ice cream stations were manned by officers, deputies, support staff and family members associated with the Macon County Sheriff’s Office.

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Lt. Jeff Scheibly, in charge of patrol, commanded one station with deputy Seth Major and Scheibly’s 19-year-old son, Nicholas.

“It’s fun for us, and it kind of shows people that cops are people, too,” Jeff Scheibly said. “We’ve also got stickers and coloring books for the kids, and we’re handing them out as well.

"I tell you, this event is one of those things where we put out the sign-up sheet to come out and volunteer and we never have to twist arms to get our guys out here.”

Among the visitors heading for Scheibly’s ice cream station was Abby Cohan, who came all the way from Pana to enjoy the zoo and the ice cream with children Delilah Denton, 3, and Desmond Denton, 5, along with grandmother Heather Lebon.

“We’ve been to the zoo before but, we’ve not done the Ice Cream Safari,” said Cohan, 23, having just plucked Delilah off the zoo’s merry-go-round. “We came over today for family time, and the kids like the playground nearby and all the animals.”

Stepping out into the steamy heat, Cohan also gave thanks for another Scovill Zoo attraction: “And it’s not too big. Oh, man, that is like one of the best parts.”

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Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid

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