HUGHESVILLE - When most people stop for a rest break while traveling with their pets, it's not unusual to see a dog stretching its legs or otherwise taking care of business.
But heads turn when Bubba, an 11-year-old camel from Buffalo Beals Animal Park in Maiden, N.C., makes an appearance at a McDonald's parking lot.
That's exactly what happened when Terry Beal, owner and founder of the park, brought Bubba and a host of other animals to this year's Lycoming County Fair.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette
A water buffalo sniffs out the camera while a goat, left, jockeys for a chance to get fed at Buffalo Beal’s Petting Zoo at the 142nd Lycoming County Fair early Sunday evening.
Fairgoers can take a ride on Bubba or miniature ponies and feed and pet other animals like llamas, a Zebu cow, goats and more.
Buffalo Beals Animal Petting Zoo is a new feature at the fair, and it's the first time Beal has had his animals in Pennsylvania, he said. He has plans to attend six more fairs in the state, as well as events in West Virginia and his home state of North Carolina.
Bubba, who sports big eyelashes and enjoys eating almost anything - as evidenced by the wooden mounting platform he turned into an appetizer - is a bit of a celebrity back home. The animal performs yearly in local church Nativity scenes, Beal said.
"I can walk him in your house," he said. "He'll go right through the door."
Beal, who runs the petting zoo with the help of family and friends, said he and Bubba have a long relationship.
"I bought him when he was three days old. He's part of the family," he said.
The camel's lanky legs and lumbering gait do attract attention. During their McDonald's rest stop, Beal said people were stopping their cars and taking pictures of Bubba.
Though they might not be for everyone, "camels can be pretty neat pets," Beal said. He added that they can live to about 50 years of age.
Other rare animals on display - but not necessarily for petting - are an African porcupine and a capybara - the largest rodent in the world.
"When (people) say, 'I got rats,' I say I got a bigger one," Beal said of the capybara, which are related to guinea pigs.
Beal said he was a dairy farmer before he got into showing and caring for exotic animals.
"I traded three peacocks for some buffaloes and it started from there," he said. "I really did it because of kids."
He explained that he was concerned children couldn't recognize different animals, like when kids have mistook Bubba for a llama.
Today, Beal and his family have hundreds of animals at their 40-acre facility, he said.
Brena Hearst, 9, of Hunlock Creek, was one visitor to the petting zoo Friday with her family as the fair was just opening. An animal lover who has cats, dogs, horses and a donkey at home, she said the enjoyed Beal's animals.
They were "very fuzzy," she said.