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Repticon draws hordes of people, animals to Huntsville for weekend expo

HUNTSVILLE — Animal lovers near and far convened at the Jaycee Community Building in Huntsville Jan. 5-6 for a weekend celebrating the creepy, the crawly and the cute.

Repticon, a traveling expo that spotlights a wide array of unconventional pets beyond just reptiles, made its stop in the Rocket City to celebrate these animals and find them their own forever homes.

Sheridan Bouldin and Cody Holloway were two young attendees who traveled all the way to Repticon from Walker County, Georgia. Bouldin said she attended a similar event in Nashville and, after hearing about Repticon coming to Huntsville, decided to make the drive to see what it had to offer.

“I went to an exotic animal expo in Nashville, so that’s how I kind of got into it,” Bouldin said. “I’ve always heard the term ‘reptile expo’ or whatever, and I was like, ‘We’ll try that,’ because we just recently got a snake. … It’s awesome. There’s a lot to see.”

Bouldin and Holloway are the proud owners of a ball snake and enjoyed admiring similar ball snakes at one vendor station.

These vendors, breeders and educators involved with Repticon brought not only their animals and expertise to the table, but they also brought a wide array of food, habitats and miscellaneous supplies for attendees looking to provide for their new scaly and furry friends.

“Every show is different because we have different vendors,” said Klay Menard, manager of the Repticon show in Huntsville. “… Different vendors have different interests, which means that they have different things, so the shows out [across the country] have completely different animals than shows over here and vice versa. There’s a lot of stuff over here that I don’t find at other shows.”

One of these vendors was downtown Madison’s own Animal Trax. Employee Kaitlin Bailey said Animal Trax typically attends about two or three local reptile expos per year where they enjoy interacting with the community and helping people learn more about some of the animals they offer at their pet store on Church Street.

Animal Trax brought a few frogs and snakes for attendees to purchase as pets, as well as a few pet supplies. Aside from her dog and two hairless rats, Bailey owns five reptiles. These include two leopard geckos, a Mexican alligator lizard, a chuckwalla and a sand boa.

“They’re a lot different than a cat and dog … they do require a lot more care, so you have to have your temperature set up right, you have to have your housing and all that correct, so they’re a little bit more of a challenge than your regular pet,” Bailey said. “… For me, it’s all about taking the best care that I can. I want to make sure that I’m providing the right amount for them and all that good stuff.”

That love for these unconventional pets and concern for quality care extends beyond her home, though. Bailey said she considers the pets at the shop like her pets as well.

“At the shop, it’s one of those things—I’m around [the animals] almost every day, so it’s like they’re all my pets,” she said. “I’m taking care of all these different things, so it’s kind of like I have a whole lot more pets than just the eight.”

For Bailey, developing her deep love for reptiles and many other animals has been slow but steady. After spending several years coming to Animal Trax, especially after her mother began working there about eight years ago, Bailey became an employee of the pet store herself. Since joining the Animal Trax team about two years ago, she has enjoyed caring for the many animals up for sale as well as the shop’s resident pets.

Menard, on the other hand, said reptiles have been piquing his interest for most of his life. This began with his love for dinosaurs as a young child, which he said continues today. Movies have also influenced his love for reptiles.

“I’ve grown up watching monster movies and sci-fi movies, and the most alien things were reptilian,” he said. “I’ve always loved that, and I’ve always been drawn to the creepy—the different—and that’s just what fascinates me. That’s what got me into [Repticon].”

After volunteering at a couple Repticon shows, Menard became an official member of the team and worked his way up to manager. A native of Louisiana, he said he loves being able to feed his passion while traveling all over the country to work shows. In addition, he said he has been able to form friendships with many others involved in Repticon and enjoys meeting up with them at shows every once in a while.

“I love it,” he raved. “This is the best job in the world to me. I get to travel, I get to see all these crazy animals, crazy people. I love it.”

The ackie monitor lizard is one of these “crazy animals” that Menard loves. He even gave a seminar on the monitor lizard at Repticon Saturday afternoon. The Brazilian rainbow boa,, however, comes in “a close second” for Menard as well. He even has his own Brazilian rainbow boa as a pet, along with a bearded dragon and two cats.

“Exotic animals are becoming such a more popular pet than they [once were],” he said. “… We’ve been expanding rapidly. Especially the past few years, we’ve just exploded in popularity. Shows are becoming bigger and more frequent.”

In fact, Repticon has even more shows planned for this year than in past years. They will be averaging about three shows per weekend, up from two, and increasing from about 100 to about 150 total shows in 2019.

“That’s nuts to think about for us, but the show’s been growing. We’re outgrowing some venues [and] having to move to other venues, but it’s better for guests, and it’s better for the vendors.”

Repticon is a family-oriented event intended for all ages and designed to suit a diverse range of enthusiasts.

To learn more about Repticon or to see a list of upcoming shows, visit repticon.com.

“We’re expanding pretty rapidly, so we have shows all over,” Menard said. “We’d love it if you came out and brought the family.”

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