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Sparky the Sea Lion shows back at Como Zoo after 4-year absence

The legendary marine mammal has a new home and a new sponsor, and will perform two shows every day.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Editor's Note: The video above first aired on Feb. 25, 2021. 

A St. Paul tradition is getting a fresh start, as Como Zoo prepares to relaunch its crowd-pleasing Sparky the Sea Lion show. 

Beginning May 7, the zoo's team of popular marine mammals will perform two shows daily, one at 11:30 a.m. and the second at 2:30 p.m., at the new $21 million Como Harbor, which opened in June of 2021.  

The harbor offers a home for sea lions and other sea creatures that sits smack dab in the middle of the zoo grounds, on land that used to house Monkey Island. The harbor has modern visitor comforts, a stage, modern presentation technology and increased opportunities for visitors to engage with the eight seals and sea lions.

RELATED: Como Zoo plans grand opening for Sparky the Sea Lion's new digs in June

Sparky is the stage name of the collective sea lions and seals that have been entertaining guests at Como Zoo since 1956. There have been generations of performing animals, with the name as a constant. 

Como had its last Sparky show in 2017: Three years were spent building Como Harbor, and last year performances didn't resume due to the COVID pandemic. 

“I, along with many Minnesotans, have wonderful memories visiting Como Park Zoo & Conservatory as a youngster and now take my grandchildren there,” says Dan Stoltz, president/CEO of SPIRE, the new sponsor of the new Sparky show. “I know people of all ages enjoy this regional treasure and will for many years to come. In SPIRE’s mission to improve lives and give back, we are grateful to partner with this wonderful organization.”

As Como evolved, Sparky the Sea Lion became a conservation ambassador of sorts, helping teach guests about everything from the value of recycling to protecting marine mammals from plastic pollution.

While the zoo is owned by the City of St. Paul, many consider it a state asset because it draws more than two million visitors a year from across the state, and provides educational programs to 450,000 children each year.

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