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Library hosts wild celebration

July 25, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN -- Urban sprawl might be one of the biggest threats to wildlife.

But that wasn't the case Saturday, when a tarantula, a hedgehog and a boa constrictor appeared in downtown Hagerstown.

Though they rattled a few nerves, they were met, for the most part, with open arms.

It was all part of Wildlife Adventures, an interactive program designed to teach young people about the nature of animals, stewardship of the environment and personal character development.

The presentation was held at the Washington County Free Library as a midway celebration of the library's summer reading program.

"We're part entertainment, part education," said Valerie Garcia of Wildlife Adventures. "It's a fast-paced format that incorporates storytelling, animals and audience participation."

Garcia said she has spent the past two weeks traveling to each of the Washington County branch libraries and has attracted big crowds at every stop.

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"Even at the smallest libraries, we had about 50 people," she said. "We've had a really nice response to the program."

That was the case Saturday, when a large number of people gathered at the central library to get in touch -- literally -- with reptiles and mammals.

"This is a hands-on program," Garcia said. "Kids, generally, are animal lovers. So holding and touching are encouraged."

In addition to petting a bunny and allowing a snake to curl around their necks, audience members also received an education about each of the creatures presented during the show -- sometimes through stories, sometimes through questions and answers.

There even was an animal race featuring, of course, a tortoise and a hare.

"Animals open up the kids to learning," Garcia said.

Jeff Ridgeway, director of children's services at the Washington County Free Library, said this wasn't the first time animals have invaded the library. Similar programs have been held in the past, including a program by the Baltimore Zoo.

"Animals are always popular," he said. "Anytime you have animals, everyone loves it."

Sheryl Goree of Hagerstown brought her son, Caleb, 8, to Saturday's show as a surprise.

"He's in the summer reading program, so he didn't think it was unusual to be visiting the library," she said. "But once he found out about the show, he was excited. He's an animal lover."

Goree said she always is looking for something educational to do on weekends and this fit the bill.

"It was perfect," she said. "We both had a lot of fun."

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