Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Return of Repticon

            Reptile lovers: Your wait is over.  The semiannual Repticon Atlanta Reptile and Exotic
Animal Show returns to Georgia for its tenth year on July 9-10. The exhibition features scaly,
slithering creatures of all kinds: snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, and arachnids. Repticon will be
held at the Gwinnett County Fairground at 2405 Sugarloaf Parkway.
            In addition to dozens of vendors peddling their amphibian and reptilian wares, Repticon
features interactive displays and exhibits that cater to young and old alike. A typical day at the
festival includes an introduction to the fascinating world of tropical dart frogs at 11:00 a.m.  Ken
Panse, known to those in the reptile community as “The Reptile Wrangler,” follows the frogs at
noon with his collection of alligators and turtles. Panse is a crowd favorite who is also available
for children’s parties. At 2 in the afternoon there is a presentation from the good folks at Green
Desert Reptiles, followed at 4 by Arachnids, a show put on by the Exotic Kingdom company. 
            Several Repticon sponsors will be getting in on the fun by providing gifts to be raffled
away at the exhibition. Another aspect of Repticon that allows it to continue to thrive even in
uncertain economic times is its affordability. Adults earn entry for only $10, while children ages
5-12 get in for $5, and as always, kids four and under enter for free. Multiple day VIP passes are
also available upon request.
            A popular pastime for many Repticon enthusiasts is to bring their cameras and treat the
event as an interactive zoo. This was the case for Stephanie Hernandez, a 27-year-old Acworth,
Ga. mother who has attended several previous Repticon shows. Hernandez says of the show,
“My two loves are animals and photography and what better way to combine the two then
Repticon.” Hernandez added, “When I became pregnant with my son six years ago I decided to
give up my other two babies, my two albino ball pythons, to provide a safer environment for my
son. Now, my son and I come to Repticon and I get to see him interact with all these beautiful
creatures and it just brings back so many memories.”
            The comments by Stephanie Hernandez point to the family-friendly atmosphere at
Repticon, but now let me turn my attention to the other side of the table, the business side of the
table:  the vendors. What is it that the vendors get from this traveling exhibition?  Repticon visits
upwards of forty cities a year. It is a year-round endeavor. Repticon puts on exhibitions from
January all the way through early December. Why do they do it?
Do they travel the country for exposure, publicity, a love of animals, or the almighty
dollar.  The answer is a complex yes to all these questions, but it is not as simple as that.
Repticon is profitable for these vendors for all these reasons. Although specific vendors were
unwilling to divulge exactly the amount of my money there bring in from one of these shows, the
consensus among the vendors at large was that it was all worth it. As Tim Koppenhofer from
Special K Reptiles explains, “even if you don’t make a sale that day, if you can make a good
impression and create good word of mouth, appearing at Repticon has benefits that your business
will see down the road. When you are dealing with living creatures your reputation is more
important than if I were selling other goods. There is a great deal of brotherhood among those of
us who travel together. It becomes like an extended family.”
For the proprietor of Fire Ball Pythons, Trey Barnard, it is a matter of perception.
Barnard explains, “Repticon is the biggest thing going in the reptile community from the public
perspective. From a business standpoint it is important to be associated with this exhibition
because when people visit the show they view the vendors as successful. They view us as
Repticon is a celebration. It provides something that, these days, has become increasingly
difficult to find: affordable family entertainment. Those in attendance know it, and more
importantly, the vendors themselves know it and they act accordingly.

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