Reptilesssss trump Santa at children's holiday reception

December 17, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

There was a fair amount of slithering, hissing and wriggling going on Saturday at the children's holiday reception at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, but the children were doing it, not the critters brought by Michael Shwedick of Reptile World Inc.

The sold-out annual event also featured an appearance by Santa Claus, but it was clear that the snakes, crocodiles and other reptiles were the big hits.

A veteran of these meet-and-greet shows, Shwedick used his deliberate, near monotone voice and slow, deliberate movements to capture and keep the attention of all but the youngest.

Abigail Galey, 4, came to the event with her parents, Marcia and Jason Galey of Myersville, Md. She spent much of the time close to the stage, but retreated to her parents' laps when the snakes were brought out.


"A friend told us about this," Marcia Galey said. "Abigail is having a wonderful time."

Shwedick introduced an 11-year-old milk snake named Lipstick, and told the children that in a few days, the snake will be shedding its skin.

When that happens, he said, the snake's muted colors briefly become will brilliantly red, black and yellow before reverting back to the milder colors.

Crocodiles of varying sizes were displayed as Shwedick explained how they might grow to tremendous sizes in the wild, and can wrestle a careless 500-pound water buffalo to its death at the edge of a river.

Brenda Reynolds of Hagerstown brought three of her four children to the event. It was their third year.

"It's a nice morning, even at $3 a person," Reynolds said. She said her children did miss the puppeteers who put on a program in past years.

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