Summerfield Zoo in Belvidere is holding a grand opening celebration this weekend for a new exhibit named in honor of a former WREX anchor who passed away from cancer in 2012.If you ever got the pleasure to talk to or be around Jeannie Hayes, there were two things you would realize right away; she had an infectiously joyous spirit, and she LOVED animals.  It's safe to say one of Jeannie's favorite parts of working at WREX was when she got to welcome animals onto the set with her.



Summerfield Zoo's resident hyena, Shenzee,  was the last animal to make an appearance with Jeannie at WREX, so it's only fitting that Shenzee's new habitat at Summerfield be named in honor of her very special friend.

The Jeannie Hayes Memorial Hyena Habitat will officially open at the zoo this weekend, and it includes an indoor and outdoor yard with shade trees and a swimming hole made possible in part by a donation from Jeannie's family.

Rick Anderson, director at Summerfield Zoo, recently explained to WREX why honoring Jeannie's memory was so important to them:

"Jeannie had a special way with animals that allowed even Shenzee to be comfortable with her. Hyenas are known for being especially wary of strangers, but Jeannie’s quiet calm allowed for Shenzee to be comfortable on the set. We are proud to name our newest habitat after our friend Jeannie Hayes and hope that the public will come visit and celebrate it’s opening with us."


Summerfield Zoo is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  For more details on this weekend's grand opening celebration, check out the Summerfield Zoo's Facebook page.