Raleigh reptile show draws warm crowds

ablythe@newsobserver.comJuly 20, 2013 

  • If you go

    Where: N.C. State Fairgrounds, 1025 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh

    When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

    Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 5-12. Free for ages 4 and under.

— Many see a slithering snake, unleash a frantic “Eeew – gross!” and skedaddle, whether it’s venomous or not.

On Saturday, though, snake enthusiasts and other reptile devotees flocked to the N.C. State Fairgrounds to be among people who have a warm spot for cold-blooded critters.

They paid money, too, to wander inside the Scott building where an array of exotic snakes, lizards, turtles, spiders and more were on display in the reptile show arranged by Repticon, a producer of such events across the country.

Taylor Kivett, 19, of Mebane, was behind one of the tables with a small, yellowish-orange blood python wrapped around his neck. It was the newest of three snakes in his pet collection, an assembly that includes 20 tarantulas, a tegu lizard, a crested gecko and large-mouthed Pacman frogs.

Since childhood, he has been a fan of things that slither, crawl and constrict.

“I didn’t watch cartoons, when I was little,” Kivett, a pet store worker, said. “I watched Animal Planet.”

Kivett thinks snakes and other reptiles sometimes get a bad rap, that they are not the scary monsters they often are portrayed to be.

“The image of some reptiles and snakes is really misconstrued and misunderstood,” Kivett said.

Sometimes the images of their owners are too, according to the show’s promoters.

Some think of snake owners as odd and offish, but promoters say reptile show crowds often include a diversity of young and old and a range of personalities.

Bridgett Gallagher, 18, chatted easily with people who stopped to inquire about the thick yellow anaconda wrapped around her shoulders and arms as if it were a fashionable pashmina shawl.

She kept the head of the tropical serpent at arm’s length, but stroked the wriggling body as she informed her rapt audience what it felt like to hold a snake for the first time.

“At first it was moving around a lot,” she said. “But now it’s settled down.”

Though some people just browsed at the show, others were there to buy. The price tags ranged from dozens of dollars to hundreds.

John Paner of Croc Encounters, a reptile park and wildlife center in Tampa, Fla., held a crocodile in his lap as he ate a late lunch. His organization did shows on the hour, hoping to encourage reptile-keepers to be responsible pet-owners.

As vendors sold alligators no more than six inches long at nearby tables, Paner was there to remind reptile devotees that the alligators and crocodiles can quickly outgrow an aquarium.

The critters he had with him were rescues – animals that had been held in captive and surrendered to a shelter or zoo.

“They get too big and people can’t keep them,” Paner said. “They’ll turn them in to a shelter or take them to a zoo. We get a lot from zoos. They have too many already. They can’t keep them.”

Though educating people about reptiles was a common theme among the vendors at the reptile show, another was trying to get the crowds to warm to the idea that cold-blooded critters could be family-friendly pets, too.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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