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Crowds flock to reptile show

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Redtail boas, bearded dragons and tarantulas all crowded into the exhibit hall at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds on Saturday, slithering and crawling their way into the hearts of collectors and newcomers alike.

Repticon, one of the country's largest reptile and exotic animal conventions, presided, as what would be a creepy crawly house of horrors for many was instead an interactive wonderland for well-versed visitors and curious first-timers.

"What I like about reptiles is they come in all different shapes, sizes and colors," said Andrew Weisberg, 10. "And most of them are actually really friendly. Not many people like reptiles ... but if you really get to know a reptile you'll really like it."

Weisberg came to Repticon, which will also be open today, with his father and brother in search of a new pet bearded dragon (think small iguana).

The 50 or so vendors were more than happy to oblige, with lizards, spiders and snakes galore available for sale and

viewing, along with all kinds of exhibits, information and any accessory possibly needed to raise reptilian pets new and old.

"It's really a learning experience," said first-time convention-goer Carmen Stewart. "We learned about how so many people are crazy about reptiles ... I think it's a marvelous pet for today's people that are so busy. I think it's a great thing."

With professional breeders and vendors from around the country, Repticon, which travels the country doing regional shows throughout the year, is a must for those that love cold-blooded, scaly creatures.

"And even people that don't," said Michael Bachert of Norcross, his six-foot Burmese python draped around his neck. "A lot of people come out that just want to look and touch some cool animals."

Information and education are at a surplus, too.

Vendors and event participants are veritable experts in their various fields, and can answer any question someone could possibly have. Series of live interactive exhibits, like venomous reptile photography and seminars on native Georgian species, keep the event rolling all day.

And, if just there to experience something new, convention-goers can even get their picture taken with a giant monitor lizard.

"What I like about Repticon is it has everything here," Weisberg said. "There's so many different providers, you can get like anything.

"I can't get a dog or a cat or any furry animal, so this basically makes up for it," the 10-year-old added. "I'm getting a bearded dragon today. And that's basically like a reptile dog, because it's all loving and gentle."