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Polar Frontier History


Polar Frontier Opening

In August of 1992, as their first project, PBAA adopted the Columbus Zoo polar bears. Wally Palmer 56, Dale Hunt 56, Steve Radabaugh 56, Don Smith '56, Dick Wilson '59 and, Jackie Batt Wilson '59 went to the zoo and presented the check for $750 to director Jack Hannah. Naturally, everyone was quite upset when due to the antiquated exhibit, the polar bears were sent to Guadalajara, Mexico on June 28, 1994.


On July 2, 2000, after over three years of fund raising by North High School’s alumni groups, (the Polar Bear Alumni Association, the Old North Hi Club and the North High Women’s Alumni Association) a sculpture of a mother polar bear and her two cubs was dedicated at the Columbus Zoo. An estimated 200 people attended the ceremony.

Due to inadequate facilities the zoo’s live polar bears had been sent to Mexico in 1994. PBAA had “adopted” the bears as their first service project in 1992. Naturally we were very unhappy. After meetings with zoo officials we realized that it would be many years before their return. It was suggested that a bronze sculpture with white patina would be the best way to represent our mascot. The three alumni groups formed a committee ,and fund raising began. We decided that a mother with two cubs should be depicted. We wanted it to be child friendly so children could climb on it and photos could be taken. Twelve sculptors from New York to California submitted ideas. Sculptor Mathew Palmer was unanimously chosen. In true North High fashion we surpassed our goal with a final total of over $109,000.

Our sculpture has become the most popular place for zoo visitors to have pictures taken. We are very proud to have given this beautiful piece of art to the community.

Our dream of live polar bears returning, came true when Polar Frontier opened on May 6, 2010. To a storm of excitement.. If you live in Columbus you couldn’t have missed all of the media coverage. In fact, on the opening day there were live features from the zoo on two national TV morning shows.

We were truly treated like VIP’s. We even had a special entrance through the mouth of a huge polar bear head. Around 75 excited Polar Bears were in attendance. When the gates opened we had a short walk to the chairs in the VIP area. The general public was held at a gate behind us and we were told that the line reached clear to the zoo’s main entrance. Of course, Jack Hanna was there to greet us, chat and shake hands. The ribbon was cut after very interesting speeches by zoo director Dale Schmidt, zoo board director Diane Woodward, and wildlife research specialist Tom Smith and Jack Hanna. We walked in singing the “Polar Pep.” The public gate was opened at the same time. Women with strollers are wild! You would have thought that the bears were only going to be there for minutes. They ran past us. We were a bit concerned about shaken baby syndrome.

Of course, we had to slow down as we walked by “our” sculpture. We did glance at the unique polar theme children’s playground, the brown bears called Brutus and Buckeye, the adorable arctic foxes, named Ice, Cascus, Brutus and Anana (that is not a mistake the were named by other zoos) and the Battelle Ice Bear Outpost, where you can receive information and play games. But we were really anxious to see polar bears.

The polar bears, Aurora and Anana, are BEAUTIFUL!!! They seemed to be enjoying all of the attention. We are sure that the keeper told them to really show off for us. They were on land posing for pictures and playing, diving in the water and swimming. Catching fish is one of their favorite ways to snack. They were having a marvelous time. To say that those of us watching were excited is quite an understatement.

We eventually went down the ramp and watched the bears under water. We found it really incredible seeing them swim by and then catch one of the many fish in their pool.

A few steps away there was an area for the VIP’s where we found a wonderful continental breakfast plus, what else, Klondike Bars. Every time we have had a meeting with the zoo, plus the ground breaking, they have served us those delicious bars.

On the way out we just had to stop by the sculpture for a few minutes. Kids were busy climbing on it just as we planned when we chose the design. It makes us so proud every time we see the sculpture and know that it is the most popular place at the zoo to have pictures taken. There were 7,360 people who visited the polar bears that day.

On October 16, 2013 a 1,000 pound a 25 year old male polar bear, named Nanuq, joined six year old Anana and Aurora. He started out life as an orphan in Alaska and lived at both the Henry Vilas Zoo in Wisconsin and the Buffalo Zoo where he sired two litters of cubs. Hopes were high that we would also soon have babies.


On November 6, 2015, Aurora gave birth to two cubs. Sadly one did not live and because her first time mom was neglecting her, the decision was made that she be hand raised. She thrived under the loving care of the team devoted to raising her. A contest was held and she was named Nora. She quickly became a media sensation. On April 15, 2016 she made her public debut and although she was only out for an hour each day until she became older but both she and the public loved every minute. Being hg raised by humans instead of her mom might not be ideal but one big advantage is all of the great pictures we got to see constantly.


Tiny Baby Nora


  Nora Swimming

Nora Running


When you visit Polar Frontier you can be very proud of our sculpture and our part of bringing one of the best polar bear exhibits in the world the Columbus Zoo.