History of the Game Farm

Since 1970

About the Long Island Game Farm

Norman Rockwell’s depiction of children’s zoo graced the cover of a 1958 edition of the Saturday Evening Post. Captivated by the illustration and its potential to become a reality, Stanley Novak found a sense of hope and wonder at the image. It was this same year that he married his wife, Diane, who shared a love and passion for animals. In the little spare time they had between work and raising two daughters, they researched species of all origins that they may one day host at a zoo of their own. 


Sharing the beauty, mystery, and biology of wildlife grew from dream to reality when the Novaks moved to Manorville, New York in 1969. Having purchased a 26-acre hay and cattle farm on Long Island, they set to work building facilities and creating open spaces that would soon be home to more than 100 animals. Long Island Game Farm Wildlife Park and Children’s Zoo officially opened in the spring of 1970, becoming the island’s first zoo. Buffalo, camels, chimpanzees, deer, goats, lambs, and exotic birds were the earliest residents of the zoo, which also included various education areas and entertainment. 


After Stanley’s passing in 1999, his daughter, Melinda, soon took the helm and shifted the focus of the park exclusively toward animals, nature, and education. Nearing 55 years as Long Island’s premier education and attraction center for wildlife, the zoo is evolving further to include a new nonprofit arm, The Foundation for Wildlife Sustainability, Inc., in late summer 2023. 


1969 | Stanley and Diane Novak purchase a 26-acre hay and cattle farm in Manorville, New York. They move with their daughters Susan and Melinda to Long Island, and begin building facilities for a zoo. Areas include a deer enclosure called Bambiland, a nursery for baby animals, Storyland, and Old MacDoanld’s farm.

1970 | The Long Island Game Farm opens in the spring, becoming the first zoo on Long Island with approximately 125 animals.

1971 | The park expands its holding to 300 animals in its second season, adding a chimpanzee, monkeys, camel, Himalayan snow bears, two buffalo, and 40 baby lambs and goats. 

1970s | Llamaland opens in 1973. Long Island Game Farm introduces a sea lion show in 1975. The park’s first mechanical ride, a merry-go-round, also debuts that year. The Animal Wonderland Theater opens in 1978, while additional continued to appear, including adult and kiddie swing rides. 

1980s | A train is installed that circles the game farm’s grounds in 1983. In 1988, a tiger show replaces the sea lion show, and becomes on the Long Island Game Farm’s most popular attractions. 

1990s | New animal displays and shows are added, as well as updated attractions like the sky slide.

1999 | Stanley Novak sadly passes away. His wife Diane and daughter Susan take over operations at the farm. 

2002 | Susan unfortunately passes away from Multiple Myeloma at age 37, and Melinda, who had never strayed too far from the park, returns on a full-time basis.

2019 | Shifting its focus solely to the animals and nature, the game farm sells its rides. 

2020 | Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, main stage shows come to a stop. 

2023 | A new nonprofit arm is founded — The Foundation for Wildlife Sustainability, Inc. The mission is to connect people with wildlife and the natural environment, and support the work of the Long Island Game Farm.

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