Announcing the Winner of The Lion Cub Encounter Contest!

Okay, so I know you probably don’t care, but I have learned that giveaways are exhausting. Between reading your touching stories, answering questions, promoting the contest, and assisting in cub care, I’m ready for a week-long nap. The outpour of support and interest in this giveaway and The Lion Habitat Ranch has been so overwhelming. We are all so grateful for your support and enthusiasm! On behalf of and The Lion Habitat Ranch, we thank you.

lion cubs

And after a grueling week, reading your heart-felt entries and what this encounter would mean to you, The Lion Habitat Ranch trainers have chosen a winner. Drum roll please…

Baby cub

Announcing the winner of the Lion Cub Encounter!

Congratulations to Keith Olsen of Bellingham, Washington!

Keith Olsen and his wife were some of the first people to enjoy the MGM habitat on its opening day in July of 1999. Since then, they have made an annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas and have always included a trip to the habitat to highlight their stay.

Keith and cubSince the habitat has closed, they have greatly missed the opportunity to interact with the lions. The Lion Habitat is grateful for their continual support and is thrilled to announce them as the winners of this year’s contest!

Keith and his wife’s encounter will include:
>Free entry to The Lion Habitat Ranch
>5 minutes of lion cub interaction time
>Q&A session with the lion cub handlers
>Informal tour around the habitat with me, The Nomad Grad
>Permission to take their own photos and video of the experience

Congratulations, Keith! We can’t wait to hear all about your experience.

Girls at Ranch 2

But wait, there’s more…

With over a hundred entries in only five days, I’ve spent most of the last 72 hours reading your heart-felt stories and emotional circumstances. And admittedly, I have been experiencing extreme Contest Conducting Guilt over having to announce only one winner (is that a thing?). I was touched reading how much winning a chance to meet the cubs would mean to all of you. It seems like there are hard times and worthy people all over the country. And even though I wasn’t judging, I couldn’t help myself… I was invested.

So I had a little chat with the trainers. They agreed that there were so many great entries that they didn’t want to have to choose just one either. So we have more good news. Second drum roll, please… =)

Lion on bone

In the holiday spirit, we are adding THREE Semi-Finalist prizes! So additional congratulations to Kendra Holthaus of Las Vegas, Nevada, Shawna Myers of Huntington Beach, California, and Thomas Watson of Seattle, Washington!

Each runner-up will receive:
>Two free passes to The Lion Habitat Ranch AND
>A private informal tour of the facilities with me, The Nomad Grad

girls at LHR

Phew. I feel better now. =)

Happy holidays everyone! And thank you to all who shared and supported this venture. We are looking forward to bringing you more kick-ass giveaways in the future!

If you would like to learn more about The Lion Habitat Ranch or follow their ongoing endeavors, please visit and ‘Like’ their Facebook Page for weekly updates!

Now back to your regularly scheduled Nomad Grad programming… =)


20 thoughts on “Announcing the Winner of The Lion Cub Encounter Contest!

  1. Keith may have been the “official” Grand Prize winner of your Cub Encounter contest, Hilary, but as his guest, I felt pretty lucky to visit the Lion Habitat Ranch, too. Thank you so much for putting on the contest..and for selecting Keith as the Grand Prize Winner.

    Our visit was on a sunny December day which matched the disposition of the sweet lion cubs who provided us with some Christmas Cub Cheer. No-name Cub #1 (recently named “Cash”) and Pepe were absolutely delightful. I was surprised at how soft their coats are compared to Louie B, who we held on the opening day of the Lion Habitat at the MGM. Their paws are so large, but they were gentler than a small puppy.

    Their “talk”, which I described as a sort of a chirp at first, later became more of a noise a puppy would make, then sounded like the familiar vocals of my recently departed, 18-year-old domestic tabby, Kato — a half a meow. (Kato also used to do a barely audible almost silent version.) At one point, Cash or Pepe did a little growl, which I felt more than heard. In the video you shot on my camera, (thank you!) the cub was trying out his mini roar. Too cute!

    The opportunity to share this special time in the cubs’ lives was such a treat for both Keith and I. Who gets to hold, nuzzle, cuddle, bottle feed and burp a baby lion? I did and I loved it! I’m addicted now and can’t wait to go back to Vegas and visit the ranch again to see how the cubs progress as they get older.

    Speaking of lions getting older. The tour with you and your father of the enclosures with the full-grown lions was another highlight. Cristina, the trainer, answered a myriad of questions about lions in general and specific questions about the lions at the ranch. Their vocalizations to one another was amazing. At first, I was oblivious to it, as I was busy taking photographs of some of the lions. Keith interrupted me saying, “Stacey, Stacey, do you hear that? I thought, at first, it was being piped in. It’s not…it’s live…it’s the lions! Listen to that!”

    I can’t imagine where else on this planet I could possibly experience listening to all these lions roaring in unison. They appeared to be spreading the word that we were there. Since they are not yet used to having visitors at the ranch, I guess this is quite likely. I would certainly not want to hear this at night out in the wild. I get shivers when I think of it and giddy when I try to describe the sound to friends and family. One of the videos I took has a fairly good audio of a few of the lions, but the sound we heard at the beginning of the tour with so many of them in unison has to be experienced to be believed.

    The big highlight of the tour was when we arrived at the large enclosure with the six lionesses and you told us that the one on the right on the ‘box’ in the back was Louie B….the cub we held on July 1, 1999. Louie B has grown to be such a regal creature. She was more interested in sunning herself than paying us any attention. However, when we were closer to her after we went around the corner of her enclosure, she began to talk and luckily, when I turned the video on, I got some great footage and audio of her. We have the framed photo from 1999 and the photo and videos from 2012 on the computer and it’s amazing to compare them.

    If Louie B had been a cub born in the wild, her chances of being around this long are not very good. As I heard Keith Evans say, trophy hunters are the biggest threat to lions in the wild. What a shame. I’m thankful that these lions have such loving, caring humans taking such good care of them and protecting them.

    Keith and Beverly Evans, your father (Michael Billings), Cristina (trainer) and you, Hilary, made us feel so very welcome. This was truly the best Christmas present we could have hoped for this year and will be an experience that we will never forget. Keith and Beverly will probably be receiving a “Lion Trainer for a Day” appointment form filled out by Keith Olsen, in the not too distant future.

    Thanks again, Hilary, for this opportunity. – Stacey Moore, Bellingham, Washington.

  2. Awesome giveaway! Also, I was really proud that TWO people from my home state of WA won. (Is that weird?) Go nap for a bit because that does sound super exhausting.

    Ps- am finally getting settled enough to play some blog catch up and am so excited to catch myself up on what you’ve been up to (besides working with adorable little lions) 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Erica! And I don’t think it’s weird at all! Show that Washington pride! (I know I do! =)

      And whoohoo! I’ve been wondering where you went off to. Out having a life, were you? 😉 Regardless, I’m thrilled you came back to read up on me =). We’ve (meaning I’ve) missed you!

      • This reply seemed to have gotten lost in my wp notifications page..

        I think I’ve caught you up on where I was hiding, but I just wanted to say thanks! It’s kind of selfishly nice being missed.

  3. I think this contest was awesome. The really great thing is that it informed so many people about the lion sanctuary. I lived in LV for forever and didn’t know what had happened when the MGM lion habitat was shut down. Thank you for introducing me to an awesome organization that will be on my short list from now on!

  4. Last night before bed saw a BBC doc on lions in Africa. Whole night i dreamt i was being chased by or chasing a lion. Weird. Ok. Meant to ask important issues. Why do women cross their legs in photos??

    • Haha. That sounds like a crazy dream! Did you escape the lion? Did you enjoy the documentary? Glad that they’re showing documentaries on the subject. We need more of those.

      It’s not so much crossing and turning our bodies so that one leg is slightly in front of the other. We do it because it’s a slimming pose and gives a good line. At least that’s what I was taught in my modeling days. Hope that helps! =)

    • You’re welcome, Karen! Yes, there seems to be some confusion on where the cats went. All of the cats seen in the MGM habitat reside on this ranch and will live out the rest of their lives here.

      The trainers felt it was important to keep the ranch open to the public and allow people of all ages the opportunity to interact with them and become educated about them. Given their dwindling numbers in the wild, the trainers feel now more than ever is the time to gain community support and involvement to help promote conservation efforts. =)

      I hope you’ll come out and visit them soon!

  5. Two weeks ago, we decorated our Christmas Tree without our sweet little grey tabby, Kato. For the past 18 years she’s supervised the decorating, tolerated the bows placed on her head and found solace hiding amid the presents under the tree. We had to put her down this past August, and Christmas, like every day, just won’t be the same without her. Having resigned ourselves to face this season without our Christmas Kitty, we were overjoyed to receive the news that Keith had won the cub encounter essay contest at the Lion Habitat Ranch. Kato’s stocking won’t be hung by the fireplace for “Santa” to fill, but our hearts will be overflowing as we enjoy a little Christmas Cub Cheer in Vegas.

    • Thank you so much for posting this, Stacey! This warmed my heart so much. I am so looking forward to meeting both of you and sharing some cub cheer with you. I know you have had a hard year and how difficult it is losing a pet. While I know it’s not quite the same as having a Christmas with your baby, I know these cubs will bring you much needed joy. =)

      Thank you both for entering! I’m looking forward to sharing this adventure with you!

    • I hope they blog about it too! I’ll definitely be posting up photos from their experiences to share. =)

      And I know. I hope next time we can extend a longer redemption period so that cool adventurers like you can enter! I know you would love this habitat and their babies.

  6. Yay! That’s great news! I’m so glad more people could win a chance to see the cubs too! Can’t wait to visit the cubs next time we are in town!

    • I know! I was very happy when they decided that they wanted to award more prizes. They were deeply moved by all the great entries. And I can’t wait for you to come visit them either! I know Angela will LOVE them!

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