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Children View Exotic Reptiles at OMSI's Annual Show

In its 26th year, the annual Reptile Show at OMSI didn't disappoint. Scores of people came to view over 100 exotic and global reptiles. But it was inside the hands-on area where organizers hoped to leave a lasting impression. Individuals, famlies and children had the opportunity meet, pet and learn about creatures who are often misunderstood.

At the 26th Annual Reptile Show at OMSI, Steve Verhines and Michelle Verheyden watched over the handful of volunteers and the large growing crowd of families poring into the hands-on area. They’re happy. “The more you know about these animals, the less you fear them,” says Verhines.

For the past five years, the husband-and-wife team has been supplying the majority of reptiles at the annual show. The hope is that their private collection of snakes, turtles, lizards and more can help shift a large misconception about these creatures. “We are reptile advocates,” states Verheyden. And this is ground zero.

Children pore over the wooden tables with jungle- and snake-themed cloth hoping to get a closer look at cold-blooded reptiles. Volunteers handle the snakes crawling up their wrists and lizards posing like stone, sharing facts and information about their lives. There is a scrawled post-it cheat sheet nearby. Wide-eyed children slanted their heads sideways to meet a Russian tortoise and most extended index fingers to pet the scales of a bull python. “Look at their faces,” Verhines says about the giddy children. “The parents standing back and the kids come forward to pet [the reptiles].” Looking at Verhines, he’s smiling too.

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Slideshow: The 26th Annual Reptile Show at OMSI