When Brett Blackmore bought Jane’s Saddlebag from his parents in 2012 he had no idea that the tourist destination would soon be attracting 35,000 guests per year.

The 35-acre complex located along the Ohio River in Union hosts a variety of family-friendly attractions and events during the weekends of April to October each year. 

“Forty percent of people that come here come for the petting zoo,” says Blackmore. “It is unlike any in the area. You can actually walk in and interact with the animals.” 

Jane’s Saddlebag has much more than just the average goat in its petting zoo; it is also home to a llama, pig, cow, miniature donkey, sheep, ponies, horses, cats and dogs, all waiting for affection. New additions during the 2015 season are two red-footed tortoises named Buddie and Cutie. 

Many people come simply for the petting zoo but leave with experiencing much more than they bargained for.

“We have so many different things. We have a restaurant with homemade food, a ‘Whine’ Shoppe and a General Store where we have saddlebag merchandise along with unique antiques,” says Blackmore. “We have a lot of things for free like a Kids Village, a Louis and Clark expedition and an amphitheater. All of those things combined make people who discover us love us.”

The next free event of the season will be the Jane’s Saddlebag Kids Festival Aug. 22. The event is open to the public and children are welcome to enjoy the petting zoo, inflatables, the Kid’s Play Land, hayrides and games, all free of charge. 

“Having free events is our way of saying thank you for supporting us,” says Blackmore. “Each year we’ve grown 60 to 70 percent since 2012 and we are on the track with that again this year. Our growth rate is crazy. We’re blessed to have it and happy to have it.”

Other events that Jane’s Saddlebag hosts throughout the season include an egg hunt, a Mother’s Day celebration, a farm tour, a car show, a bluegrass festival and an impressive wine festival. 

“The Wine Festival is the largest festival we have,” says Blackmore. “Last year we had the largest in the state with 22 wineries and 48 craft vendors. We turned it down this year to 12 wineries and about 60 craft vendors. It’s wonderful and it’s for a great cause.”

Every year a portion of the proceeds from the annual Wine Festival are donated to Children’s Hospital. This year Jane’s Saddlebag raised $2,400 and has collectively raised $6,050 over the years. 

The tourist destination also has weekly reoccurring events including Friday Night Steak Night, Friday Night Cruise In and Jammin’ at Jane’s every Sunday. 

Being rich in American and local history, great homemade food, music venues, and a unique farm experience, there is something to do for all ages. 

“We are family owned and operated and to be able to see families come out and build memories with us is probably the most touching thing for me personally,” says Blackmore.