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Wildlife Prairie State Park opens Saturday with free admission

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Wildlife Prairie State Park will open for the season at 9 a.m. Saturday, with free admission all day.

The kick-off event for the season is called The Spring Wake-Up: Butterflies, Birds, and Bears! Oh, My! and it will include a sneak peek of what's new at the park this spring and summer.

"Join a guided hike and be "in the know" about several improvements and new additions to the park," said a news release.

Visitors this weekend can get a preview of the Kim St. John Butterfly Habitat, an exclusive to Central Illinois built with the help of the Peoria Area Master Gardners, which will officially open on May 16. A new aviary is also under construction and will open this summer.

The Merrill Woods Shelter, sponsored by CEFCU, is getting its finishing touches and will host educational programs and be a great place for fun-filled family time. The bridges in Merrill Woods are new and offer great vantage points for photographing animals.

Molly, Wildlife Prairie Park's newest black bear, has a new home thanks to a gift from Sharon and John Amdall, and there will be a dedication at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Also Saturday there will be crafts for kids, raptors on display, educational booths, and a variety of programs throughout the day. Visitors can help raise funds for the park by purchasing various items.

On Sunday March 24, Sunday Brunch at Wildlife Prairie State Park returns. "Our caterer, On The Go Catering, will be hosting Sunday Brunch every second Sunday of the month. Come out from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a hearty meal," the release said.

The price, which includes admission to the park, is $19.95 for adults, $8.95 for children ages 3 to 12, and free for children ages 2 and under. Members of the park get a 10 percent discount. Call the park at 309-676-0998 to make reservations.