I awoke early on Saturday morning to start loading live reptiles for the 3 hour drive to Pocomoke City MD. Snakes, lizards, a tortoise and an alligator all got comfy in their car seats and relaxed while I drove the reptile van across the Bay and through the heart of the Eastern Shore.
Arriving in Pocomoke City, I noted the sign welcoming Reptiles Alive into town. How awesome! I LOVE this little “city!”
I parked at the back of the Delmarva Discovery Center (DDC) and went in to find my friend Jennifer Rafter, the DDC’s Curator. We had an early quick lunch of soft-shell crab sandwiches that I had picked up at a local seafood market and then got to work setting up for the shows.
There were already lots of visitors at the DDC, and they were having a great time enjoying the exhibits featuring the Delmarva’s natural and cultural history and the special attractions that had come for Reptile Fest.
Local artist Jenny Somers painted and displayed her amphibian and reptile artwork that included beautiful wine glasses with red-eyed tree frogs and snakes painted on them and awesome herp paintings.
Heather Cunningham along with Maria and Will Beckey staffed a display featuring the Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas. The Atlas’s mission is to determine the distribution of amphibians and reptiles in Maryland.
Lots of volunteers and DDC staff including Brooks Olney, Katy Fleming, and Victoria Overholt were on hand to help out with the special temporary display the DDC had set up featuring live snakes and turtles found in Delmarva. Visitors even had the opportunity to safely pet a live corn snake at this exhibit!
Shannon Chandler and managed the craft area with supplies and volunteers to help children create frogs of their own! This was a VERY popular activity and the frogs they created were so cute.
Jennifer and DDC intern Raymond Zeintak assisted me with setting up the performance space for the live animal shows.
At 1 pm, I started the first show. The performance was packed with eager children and adults who were excited to see what exotic creatures had come to visit.
Soy the Honduran milk snake was the first reptile of the show and he caused a stir of “oohs” and “aahs.” At 5 feet long, his shiny orange and red scales are really eye-catching. The audience listened intently as I explained how people and snakes are the same on the inside. They also learned that snakes are afraid of people and that the best thing to do if you see a snake is to “Just leave snakes alone.”
Next, we met an animal from Down Under: Teliqua the blue tongue skink lizard from Australia amazed the audience with his super cool blue tongue. Children and parents alike jumped with surprise when they heard the end of my story about the time a blue tongue skink met a dingo dog.
Super tough girl Janis the leopard tortoise from Africa came out next. As always, everyone LOVED her! She is so big and pretty with her black spots. Everyone learned what a turtle shell is made of and what happens when a tortoise meets a lion.
What is the biggest lizard in the world? The Komodo Dragon – which is actually a type of monitor lizard. And we met a member of the dragon family when Logan the Nile monitor lizard was introduced. Gasps of awe could be heard as everyone saw him – he is impressive! He is over 5 long with beautiful yellow spots and a huge long forked tongue. And the story about the mommy crocodile, the Nile monitor lizard and the pizza is always a favorite with audiences of all ages.
The grand finale featured Moonlight the albino Burmese python. Moonlight is still growing, but she is already a crowd-wower at 8 feet long. Her yellow and white colors and easy going attitude seem to make her favorite , even with people who are a bit afraid of snakes.
After a wrap up with Moonlight, I concluded the first show by inviting any audience members with reptile questions to come up to the table and I would be happy to talk with them.
I repeated this process two more times that day. All three shows were completely filled up with people. In fact, there were over 200 people at the Delmarva Reptile Fest that day!
After the event was over and the DDC closed to the public, Jen and I discussed how successful the day was. We decided to start planning for next year! So get ready for the 3rd Annual Delmarva Reptile Fest at the Delmarva Discovery Center in the winter of 2012.
Sssssee you later alligators!
I would also like to give a BIG thank you to DDC Executive Director Brian Garrett, all of the members of the DDC board and the residents of Pocomoke City for being so kind and welcoming to both myself and the reptiles. Thank you all!