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Santa Claus and snakes at Children's Holiday Reception

Reptile man Michael Shwedick entertains sold-out crowd

December 11, 2010|ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alician@herald-mail.com
  • David Dean handles an American alligator as Michael Shwedick talks Saturday during the Children's Holiday Reception at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.
Ric Dugan | Staff Photographer

There were no turtle doves or partridges in pear trees Saturday at the Children’s Holiday Reception at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.There was, however, a turtle, a tropical lizard, an alligator, a crocodile and a fat albino Indian python so long that it took five men to hold.Museum educator Amy Hunt said the reptile array is part of a decades-long tradition.“We tried other shows a couple of years, but they weren’t nearly as popular,” Hunt said.Renowned reptile wildlife educator Michael Shwedick of Bowie, Md.-based Reptile World Inc. presented the program in his signature low-key style. His manner of presentation is like actor Jack Nicholson reading Dr. Seuss, a tongue-in-cheek sing-song with a volume just above a whisper. Some of his rising and falling mantras became so familiar that the audience finished his sentences with him by program’s end.“Snakes that squeeze don’t poison; snakes that poison don’t squeeze,” Shwedick said. “Some snakes eat mice, some snakes eat rats. Some snakes eat snakes, and some snakes eat bats.”The sold-out crowd of children and adults sat captivated as Shwedick held his Mexican milk snake named Lipstick.“These snakes can swing, and they have no hands. They can climb trees, and they have no arms. I can tell you what else they don’t have — physical education. No aerobics, no pilates. But they are very strong,” he said.Susan Rosencrance of New Market, Md., took her daughter Anna, 5, to the program.“It’s really interesting. It’s hard to believe, seeing reptiles in an art museum. Very novel,” Rosencrance said.Mary Bowling, 39, of Hagerstown, said her family has gone to the program every year for about six years. She said the cost of just $5 per ticket for a quality 90-minutes show is a draw for her.“It’s just a perfect, enjoyable Saturday thing to do with your family,” Bowling said.Her son, Lance Bowling, 10, said his favorite part was seeing and touching Banana Boy’s Brother, the mammoth Indian python whose retired snake family members Banana Girl, Banana Boy and Banana Peel have been featured in the show in years past.Following the reptile show, children had refreshments and visited with Santa.Xue Qing Wang and his wife, Li Li, of Hagerstown, took their children Ryan, 9, and Sophia, 6, to the event. Ryan said he enjoyed the chocolate sandwich cookies most, while Sophia was pleased to have the opportunity to let Santa know she’d been “good all the time.” Dulci Bomberger of Frederick, Md., took a party of eight children to the reception to celebrate her son Kai’s 10th birthday.“It’s hard to find winter activities. This was nice because it was an indoor event, and all the kids with us, ages 6 to 12, were entertained. We will come back,” Dulci Bomberger said.Kai Bomberger said he liked learning about snakes.“We learned about how big they get, their diets, how some are venomous and some aren’t,” Kai said. “It was a good birthday. It was cool.”There were no turtle doves or partridges in pear trees Saturday at the Children’s Holiday Reception at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.There was, however, a turtle, a tropical lizard, an alligator, a crocodile and a fat albino Indian python so long that it took five men to hold.Museum educator Amy Hunt said the reptile array is part of a decades-long tradition.“We tried other shows a couple of years, but they weren’t nearly as popular,” Hunt said.Renowned reptile wildlife educator Michael Shwedick of Bowie, Md.-based Reptile World Inc. presented the program in his signature low-key style. His manner of presentation is like actor Jack Nicholson reading Dr. Seuss, a tongue-in-cheek sing-song with a volume just above a whisper. Some of his rising and falling mantras became so familiar that the audience finished his sentences with him by program’s end.“Snakes that squeeze don’t poison; snakes that poison don’t squeeze,” Shwedick said. “Some snakes eat mice, some snakes eat rats. Some snakes eat snakes, and some snakes eat bats.”The sold-out crowd of children and adults sat captivated as Shwedick held his Mexican milk snake named Lipstick.“These snakes can swing, and they have no hands. They can climb trees, and they have no arms. I can tell you what else they don’t have — physical education. No aerobics, no pilates. But they are very strong,” he said.Susan Rosencrance of New Market, Md., took her daughter Anna, 5, to the program.“It’s really interesting. It’s hard to believe, seeing reptiles in an art museum. Very novel,” Rosencrance said.Mary Bowling, 39, of Hagerstown, said her family has gone to the program every year for about six years. She said the cost of just $5 per ticket for a quality 90-minutes show is a draw for her.“It’s just a perfect, enjoyable Saturday thing to do with your family,” Bowling said.Her son, Lance Bowling, 10, said his favorite part was seeing and touching Banana Boy’s Brother, the mammoth Indian python whose retired snake family members Banana Girl, Banana Boy and Banana Peel have been featured in the show in years past.Following the reptile show, children had refreshments and visited with Santa.Xue Qing Wang and his wife, Li Li, of Hagerstown, took their children Ryan, 9, and Sophia, 6, to the event. Ryan said he enjoyed the chocolate sandwich cookies most, while Sophia was pleased to have the opportunity to let Santa know she’d been “good all the time.” Dulci Bomberger of Frederick, Md., took a party of eight children to the reception to celebrate her son Kai’s 10th birthday.“It’s hard to find winter activities. This was nice because it was an indoor event, and all the kids with us, ages 6 to 12, were entertained. We will come back,” Dulci Bomberger said.Kai Bomberger said he liked learning about snakes.“We learned about how big they get, their diets, how some are venomous and some aren’t,” Kai said. “It was a good birthday. It was cool.”

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