Reptiles are the highlight of the Children's Holiday Reception at the Washington County Museum

December 10, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Lisa DeGrave, 28, of Williamsport, encourages Jakob Proctor, 3, of Charles Town, W.Va., to touch Banana Split, an Indian python, Saturday at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts Children's Holiday Reception.
By Alicia Notarianni

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts strives to be "all-inclusive" so people of various backgrounds can enjoy its children's holiday show, Museum Educator Amy Hunt said.

While some institutions give nod to multiple religious holidays or adopt generic wintery themes, for years the museum has rested upon an unlikely unifying factor — reptiles.

A fat, roughly 15-foot long Indian python named Banana Split was the highlight of the Children's Holiday Reception Saturday. In previous years, Banana Split's relatives — Banana Boy, Banana Girl and Banana Peel — have been featured.

Children lined up, extending their fingers and reluctantly touching Banana Split with wide-eyed wonder. Professional reptile handler and renowned speaker Michael Shwedick of Bowie, Md.-based Reptile World Inc. presented the imposing creature along with a host of other reptiles from around the globe including exotic turtles, lizards, alligators and crocodiles.

Hunt said teaching children to be kind to animals is "a positive holiday message."

"Mr. Michael does such a good job talking about conservation, maintaining habitats, and taking care of the earth and animals," Hunt said. "While it's a stretch to link Santa and snakes or Christmas and snakes, being peaceful and loving the earth is kind of a holiday theme."

Lisa DeGrave, 28, of Williamsport and her husband, Chris Proctor, 30, took their cousin Jakob Proctor, 3, of Charles Town, W.Va., to the reception.

"I thought it was a great event, even if for the holidays or not for the holidays," DeGrave said. "The time they take bringing out all the animals, telling about each one. The stories and jokes were really fun."

Ehab Shalaby of Hagerstown attended the event with his family. Shalaby's friend Ayman Elmorshedy traveled from Columbia, Md., with his wife and children to accompany them.

"(The presentation) was very informative," Elmorshedy said, "especially for the children, but for everyone. You see this on TV, but not in a live show."

Hunt said more than 100 people attended the reception. Tickets were $5 per person. Following the reptile presentation in the atrium, children visited with Santa Claus.

Skyla Heise, 12, of Hagerstown, said her favorite part of the reception was when Shwedick opened his pocket and "a little snake came out."

"I loved the little mini," Skyla said. "This is a different way to celebrate the holidays, but I think it's really fun. We get to learn about the reptiles and still get to celebrate Christmas. Like a two-in-one kind of thing."

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