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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 15th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 19 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 19

Sea lions make a big splash at the Santa Barbara County Fair

BY AMY ASMAN


SEA LION LOVE
Trainer Beccy Hughes fed sea lions Rose, Kim, Spark, and Zoey fish during a morning interview at the Santa Barbara County Fair. Hughes and her charges work for Sea Lion Splash, a Florida-based touring company that made an appearance at the fair this year.
PHOTO BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

The irresistibly catchy chorus of Will Smith’s late-’90s hit “Getting’ Jiggy Wit It” is bouncing out of the built-in speakers of an attraction near the front gates of the Santa Maria Fairpark.

It’s not the kind of music passersby would expect to hear at the Santa Barbara County Fair, and it becomes even more unusual when the distinct bark of a sea lion bursts into the mix, contrasting with backup singers’ high-pitched “na-na-na-na-na-na’s.”

Apparently, Zoey the California Sea Lion likes hip-hop music.

Zoey is one of four sea lions performing at the fair this year. Under the tutelage of trainer Beccy Hughes, the sea mammals are part of Sea Lion Splash, a Florida-based company that tours fairs, zoos, and aquariums across the country nine months out of the year.

“All of our animals are rescues,” Hughes told the Sun in an interview before the first show of the day. “Zoey was beach stranded, and the others came from organizations that couldn’t keep them anymore.”

The sea lions performed in three shows on July 10, doing flips, giving kisses, and making hilarious faces, to the delight of audience members.

Hughes explained that she and Sea Lion Splash owner Marcos Peters drive from location to location in large trucks, one of which has a pool, a dry area, and air conditioning. Once they get to their destination, Hughes and Peters fill their tanks with water brought in by a truck and add salt.

People who attend the show have the option of getting their picture taken with the talent, the proceeds from which pay for the sea lions’ food.

“They’re very food motivated,” Hughes said. “That’s why I went to go get food, because without it, there’s no way they’ll do anything. As long as they’re hungry, they’ll work.”

She accentuated her point by asking Zoey and Spark to kiss. The two pushed their noses together for a couple of seconds and then turned back to Hughes with expectant looks.

“You’re so sassy,” she told Zoey, adding, “Their intelligence is right up there with whales and dolphins.”

A little girl watching the sea lions asked, “Can they balance a coconut on their nose?”

To which Hughes replied, “I don’t know. I’ve never tried.”