Event features scaly, slithery creatures

09/30/2012 12:00 AM

09/30/2012 5:03 PM

Reptiles are taking over the Convention Center this weekend for the 15th annual Sacramento Reptile Show.

Throngs of people lined up Saturday morning, hoping to catch a glimpse of the shiny and scaly creatures. By noon, the line wove around half the building. Attendees reported waits of up to an hour to buy a ticket.

Inside the center, a giant Mexican black king snake rested serenely around the neck of 15-year-old Lacie Baker, who showed the snake to attendees young and old. The Cordova High School freshman, whose family has been raising reptiles as pets since before she was born, was staffing one of the booths at the show.

"Touch it," she said. "Reptiles are just so cool."

This year's show is the largest in the event's history, said organizer Jeremy Epstein, owner of Pets to Go in Elk Grove. He expects 15,000 people to stream through before the event ends this afternoon.

"This is an opportunity you don't get at the zoo when everything is behind glass," Epstein said.

All sorts of vendors and reptile enthusiasts attended Saturday, from breeders to lobbyists to families. Many were there to scoop up as many reptiles as they could.

Sacramento's Rose Marie Gray came so she could add to her already large reptile collection – the 49-year-old mother of three has four snakes and a gecko. On Saturday, she bought a bearded dragon – a type of Australian lizard that can grow to a foot or longer – for her 7-year-old son.

"They're interesting pets and easy to care for," she said.

The most popular reptiles sold at the show included bearded dragons, leopard geckos and ball pythons, Epstein said. Prices range anywhere from $20 to $25,000 for the most prized reptiles.

Breeders dominated the 100,000-square-foot convention floor, prodding children to touch their vast collection of reptiles. Some of the snakes on display were only weeks old and as little as 3 inches long.

"Breeding can be time-consuming but can be very lucrative," said snake breeder Shannon Brown, 41, who drove from Bishop in Southern California to sell his snakes.

There was money to be made elsewhere, too. Several vendors peddled food, cages and T-shirts.

Tony Escobar of San Jose was hawking a "sophisticated environmental control system," which he designed three years ago. The machine, called EcoZone Vivarium, "simulates seasonal changes like light and humidity, which helps induce breeding," he said.

Being seven months pregnant didn't stop Jolyn Barruther from driving her two young boys from Folsom to buy a lizard.

"They love reptiles because they're boys," Barruther said.

The reptile show also brought those who had no interest in the creatures, including Chico's Jim Holt.

"I came with my son and grandson," said Holt, 64. "They like reptiles, but I don't."

If you go

What: Sacramento Reptile Show

Where: Sacramento Convention Center

When: Today, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How much: Ages 13 and older, $12; ages 6-12, $8; ages 5 and under, free.

More information: www.upscalereptiles.com


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