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It's beginning to look a lot like 'Hiss-mas'

Museum hosts reptile show

Museum hosts reptile show

December 11, 2005|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

alician@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN -

Dozens of little ones lined up Saturday morning at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts Children's Holiday Reception waiting expectantly for a moment with the awe-inspiring fat guy.

As the children approached him, the stout character did not ask for their Christmas wishes or share a jolly "Ho ho ho." He rarely even made eye contact. Instead, he sluggishly was spread across the stage digesting the 24-pound pig he had swallowed whole last night for dinner.

While Santa admittedly still draws a crowd, top billing at the reception went to Banana Boy, a 212-pound, 17-foot albino Indian python.

Linda Dodson, educational coordinator at the museum, said she has been booking Michael Shwedick of Reptile World Inc. to exhibit his serpents at the holiday reception for years. She said former museum director Jean Woods had seen Shwedick's program at another venue and suggested bringing him to the museum.

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Dodson said some people have balked at the idea of reptiles at the holiday party, but she doesn't mind because it's a big draw.

"Some people call and go, 'Why?'" Dodson said. "I say, 'Because kids are fascinated by it, and the whole idea is to get kids to come in and know the museum and to get families involved here.'"

Shwedick presents his creatures with a quiet, wide-eyed demeanor, commonly beginning sentences with the exclamation, "Oh!"

"Oh! They have no ears, they can never close their eyes and they smell with their tongues," Shwedick said, introducing the snake portion of his presentation.

Shwedick said he and his reptiles are not typically invited to holiday parties.

"This is pretty much the only one," Shwedick said. "Reptiles and the holidays - I can't quite make that mesh the way I'd like to."

For some area children, reptiles at the holiday party is becoming a tradition.

"There's nothing unusual about it. This is my favorite part of the party," said Breese Dickinson, 9, of Hagerstown, who has been to the annual party several times.

His mother, Mimi Dickinson, marveled at the way Shwedick held the children's attention for 90 minutes straight.

"The kids are captivated," Dickinson said. "They, just for this whole time, have been sitting still."

Linda Dodson's niece, Brenda Rice, 21, of Hagerstown, said she remembers seeing the snakes at the museum's holiday party when she was a child. This year, she took her son, Kevin Rinehart, 3, to the program.

"Kids love it," Rice said.

After they'd had a chance to touch the shiny, yellow scales of Banana Boy, the children had cookies and punch and waited to have their pictures taken with - oh yeah - Santa Claus.

Still, Andrea Trumble, 2, of Hagerstown, seemed partial to the more recent tradition.

"I liked Banana Boy," Andrea said.

Will red velvet be replaced by yellow scales? Perhaps there is room for both.

"I like Santa Claus and Banana Boy," said Andrea's sister, Jessica Trumble, 6.

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