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From the archives: Keiko at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

"Keiko put us on the map nationally and internationally,” said Carrie Lewis, president and CEO of the Oregon Coast Aquarium. For two years, millions of people crowded in to get a glimpse of the famed orca. “I mean, we started early," Lewis said, "and we closed late." (From file video)

NEWPORT, Ore. - The doors of the Oregon Coast Aquarium opened May 23, 1992.

But it wasn't until 1996 that the Oregon Coast Aquarium became a household name thanks to the star of the sleeper 1993 film hit, "Free Willy".

"Keiko put us on the map nationally and internationally,” Lewis said.

For two years, millions of people crowded in to get a glimpse of the famed orca.

“I mean, we started early," Lewis said, "and we closed late."

Newport saw the tourism economy surge as stores sold Keiko memorabilia to visitors.

"He was definitely iconic for the aquarium," Lewis said. "He was a huge part of our history. It's a wonderful story. It's about rehabilitation and conservation."

LIFE AFTER KEIKO | What's in store for the next 25 years? Watch #LiveOnKVAL Monday, May 1, at 6 p.m.

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