Repticon: Gonzales event more than just a lizard show

It was lunch time Sunday for three bearded dragons at Repticon, a reptile show in Gonzales, and the main items on the menu were large, live super mealworms served on a blue plastic lid.

The worms slithered around the lid, flummoxing the dragons, Crimpson, Ellie and Reeves, who kept flicking their tongues in an attempt to latch onto a worm. Eventually the dragons cleared their plate.

About 12 feet away on the same display table, a uromastyx, better known as a spiny-tailed lizard, sat in its glass cage, eyeing his meal of kale, spring greens and carrots.

Repticon, held three times a year at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center, features reptiles, including snakes, lizards and turtles in addition to spiders, scorpions and rats. Some are there on display and others are for sale.

More than 30 vendors from Houston to Birmingham, Ala., sold cages, food, bedding and even leashes for the lizards displayed on tables next to snakes of all shapes, sizes and colors coiled in small display cases. Nearby were brightly colored frogs, lizards and turtles. Sprinkled throughout the show were other items for sale, including such oddities as frozen mice and crickets, or necklaces and hammocks for lizards.

Larry Martinets, vendor coordinator for Repticon, said the shows have grown from reptile shows to more of an exotic animal show where visitors can see hedgehogs, hawks and eagles in addition to the reptiles on any given weekend. He said they hoped more than 2,500 people attended the two-day show.

“It’s definitely growing,” he said. “People come here. It sparks an interest in them.”

There also were presentations on how to care for the exotic animals at a small show area nestled in the back corner of the display hall.

Large turtles and baby crocodiles were on hand to catch people’s attention, but the main draw were the hundreds of snakes, some for sale.

The cost of snakes generally depended on their size. Some small snakes sold for about $100 while some larger snakes cost about $300.

One of the more expensive reptiles was a baby crocodile with an asking price of $6,000.

Danny Seiler brought his reptile-loving grandson, Gavin Vaccaro, 9, from Denham Springs to catch a glimpse of some animals he’d never seen.

The pair were under strict orders not to buy anything.

“We just came to look around,” Seiler said as they passed an 18-foot albino Burmese python in a large glass cage.

Across from the python, Austin and Katie Lockhart, of Birmingham, Ala., stood behind their table, talking to potential customers about their small poison dart frogs — about the size of a quarter — for sale.

The tiny, brightly colored blue, red and yellow frogs sat in three tiers of small plastic cages. Next to the cages was on old fish tank Austin Lockhart turned into a vivarium for the frogs.

“It’s about as much a decoration for your house as it is a pet,” he said.

Lockhart had several old fish tanks lying around when his wife said she wanted a red-eyed tree frog.

Austin Lockhart said he figured he could raise frogs in the fish tanks and hatched the idea to start Amphinity Frogs.

Not all vendors at Repticon sell the animals full time. For some like Michael Rodrigue, of New Iberia, raising and selling animals is a hobby.

He and some friends raise bearded and uromastyx lizards in their free time and sell them at shows.

Having raised them since 2004, he knows a lot about the exotic animals and typically spends a lot of his time at shows explaining to people how they differ from what people think of as conventional house pets.

“It’s not something that’ll play fetch,” Rodrigue said while a juvenile gecko walked around his shoulders with a leash tethered to it. “It’s something to have around and admire.”

Most of the work comes from feeding them — the uromastyx is an omnivore, but usually sticks to a leafy, green diet supplemented with crickets and worms, he said — and cleaning out its habitat.

“They’re very low maintenance,” he said,

Martinets, the vendor coordinator, said he did not hold a venomous animal show during this Repticon as they had in June because of a lack of vendor interest.

Last year, despite their promotion about the venomous animals, only a handful of vendors showed up. The show’s organizers decided to scrap the idea this time, but Martinets said the show could come back in the future if they find more vendors.

“It does bring more people,” he said of the venomous animals.