A long-awaited interactive aquarium in Folsom is now open to the public. SeaQuest, which also has locations in Utah, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and Florida, opened its first facility in California on Tuesday at the Palladio.

"I think this is amazing. Folsom needed a place like this where people could come and learn about all these animals," said Kristine Stirn, who was visiting SeaQuest from Placerville.

According to SeaQuest CEO, Vince Covino, guests can look forward to more than 1,500 different species.

"It’s an interactive aquarium where everything is hands-on. You’re touching stingrays. You’re feeding sharks. You’re letting the birds just swarm and eat everything right out of your hands," Covino explained.

The grand opening, however, didn't come without opposition from protesters.

"They don’t give a darn about the animals, they just do it for the money," said Folsom resident, Kip Baumann.

Baumann and his two kids were among the dozens of protesters who gathered outside the Palladio to express their concerns with SeaQuest. Animal rights activists said they were worried about animal abuse allegations that were made at other locations in the country.

"We don’t touch fish. We don’t touch wild animals, so why are we going into a strip mall to go pet fish or pet these animals who basically cannot get away?" said Mackenzie Bowlin with Stop SeaQuest Folsom.

Covino added, "There’s always room for improvement, so we’re taking all the measures. We’ve done extensive training. We brought people and managers here from other locations to ensure that there’s very thorough training, so there’s always going to be work to be done.”

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