Barry Saunders

Y’all, tell the animals this ark’s just for show – Saunders

Replica of Noah's Ark to wow visitors in Kentucky

Mike Zovath says visitors to Ark Encounter park in Williamstown, Ky. will be impressed by the size and presentation of the replica of Noah's Ark, which is slated to open on July 7th. Visitors will park in a lot and then travel in buses painted wit
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Mike Zovath says visitors to Ark Encounter park in Williamstown, Ky. will be impressed by the size and presentation of the replica of Noah's Ark, which is slated to open on July 7th. Visitors will park in a lot and then travel in buses painted wit

There were two questions I really wanted Jamie Baker, executive director of the Grant County, Ky., office of Tourism and Economic Development, to answer when we spoke Wednesday.

First, has anyone tried to book passage on the new Noah’s ark?

Second, is the dude who built it really named Ham?

I, as a renowned biblical scholar, know that Noah had a son named Ham. (OK, you’re right: let’s just say I’m as renowned as one can become after spending a week at Bible college. That’s how long I attended before realizing that the voice I heard calling unto me was not coming from whom I thought it was.)

Could Ken Ham, then, really be the name of the director of Answers in Genesis, the ministry that constructed the ark?

Or is this whole thing a practical joke?

Unless you’ve been sleeping for 40 days and 40 nights, you know that a replica of Noah’s ark of biblical legend opened in Kentucky this month.

Verily I say unto you, it’s no joke.

Unless you’ve been sleeping for 40 days and 40 nights, you know that a replica of the 300-cubit ark – that’s 510 feet to you and me – of biblical legend opened in Williamstown, Ky., last week.

“More than 30,000 visitors have been through the ark since it opened,” Baker told me. None of them, she said, have come with their bags packed trying to book passage.

That’s probably because people can read and thus know that the ark is a replica of the one that Noah built to save animals and righteous human beings from the flood God sent to destroy wicked humanity.

What about the animals who don’t have a newspaper subscription, though, and get all their news from “Entertainment Tonight”?

Barrett Slenning, associate professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine at N.C. State University, said animals such as elephants can sense – among other things – major air pressure changes and know instinctively “to get the heck out of Dodge.” That is why, he said, relatively few animals perished during the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia that killed more than 100,000 people.

The question, then, is even if animals can sense danger, can they also sense when their hooves, beaks and tails are being pulled? Will Grant County, which Baker said is preparing for an influx of human visitors by building more restaurants, hotels and a dinner theater, be able to absorb the flood of animals who don’t realize that this ark was not built to provide them shelter from an impending earth-cleansing storm?

Laugh if you want, but there’s not much sadder than imagining thousands of hopeful animals trudging into Williamstown, two by two, confident that they’ve hit the ark lottery – only to be told that they’ve arrived at a religion-themed amusement park?

“Bb-b-b-but we sold all of our earthly belongings, our custom-built house with the two-neck garage,” stammered the female giraffe.

“Don’t worry, baby,” the male giraffe reassured her. “We were already underwater on it.”

Ba-dum.

Poor things. Imagine their grief upon discovering that the ark is for ark’s sake only.

I, like Frank Sinatra in his signature song “That’s Life,” don’t get my kicks stepping on somebody else’s dream. So it never occurred to me to ask Baker about the naysayers and skeptics sure to come out of the woodwork on such a project. Others, however, have asked, she volunteered.

This thing is massive, and you will feel very small and humble when you’re standing there looking at it.

Jamie Baker, executive director of the Grant County, Ky., office of Tourism and Economic Development

“People,” she said, “have said to me in other interviews, ‘What do you say to people who don’t believe the story from the Bible?’ I say, ‘Well, we’re not trying to force a belief on you. If you do nothing else,’ I say, ‘come and see the structure and ... marvel at man’s ingenuity.’ This thing is massive, and you will feel very small and humble when you’re standing there looking at it. ... I was out there at various times during the construction. They spent three months just putting hair into this one prehistoric pig, just to get the replica just right. The timbers for the sides of the ark weighed a ton a piece, and just seeing them lifted into place” was awe-inspiring.

On the drawing board for Grant County, she said, are replicas of the Tower of Babel and “a walled city with costumed interpreters.”

The cost is $40 to tour the ark, and yes, I was assured by an Answers in Genesis spokeswoman, the dude’s name really is Ham.

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