NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. — When people are looking for a
unique to way to wish someone a happy birthday, they turn to Joni Cripe, owner
of Animal-Grams, and her four-legged friends.
“Animal-Grams is entertainment with live animals for any
occasion or any reason,” she said.
Cripe noted that she first began the business back in 1980
with an animal show that featured farm animals, which performed tricks that she
trained them to do herself.
For more than 25 years, the main star of her performances
were 400-pound pigs, which would give kisses, play basketball and wish the guest
of honor a happy birthday, she recalled.
During the last several years, though, she has been using
pot-bellied pigs instead because it takes a lot more effort and time to train a
Cripe noted that one of the bigger parts of the animal
venture are the pony rides and petting zoos that she and her five children do at
special events. She said her animals have done church and community events,
including a lot of seasonal activities.
“We have reindeer that at Christmas time are booked six
solid weeks with no break,” she said, joking that they earn their keep around
the holiday and then get the rest of the year off.
Besides Christmas, another big holiday for Animal-Grams is
Easter, which puts all of Cripe’s baby bunnies, chicks, ducks and lambs in the
spotlight. She uses unique containers such as Easter baskets to display the
Cripe said people always are impressed with how the animals
never try to escape from their spots, which she attributes to the fact that they
are trained to perform from the time they are born.
“No cruel methods are used, and we make sure every animal
feels comfortable,” she stressed.
Cripe noted the business is mobile 98 percent of the time.
When she is not on the road with her animals, she is at home feeding and taking
care of her flock, which totals more than 200 critters.
She explained that she feeds them twice a day, and each
feeding takes two hours to complete. Fortunately, she added, she saves a lot of
money on feed costs because her husband, Philip, raises corn and soybeans and
also provides her with the hay that she needs for the animals’ diets.
Currently, Cripe said her family is working on the newest
attraction to Animal-Grams, which will be mini-pig races, using a mini-track and
five pot-bellied pigs.
To book or find out more about Animal-Grams, call Cripe at