A reptile expo was a petting zoo for parents and curious kids Sunday.
Hundreds of families made their way to the Victoria Inn were dozens of reptile breeders set up displays stocked with exotic snakes, geckos, turtles and tarantulas.
"I’m not a big snake fan," confessed Crystal Ringach holding her 18-month-old daughter Faith Waltham.
But Faith was clearly fascinated, showing the coiled creatures didn’t creep her out.
The toddler reached out and eventually tried to crawl onto a clear plastic display case to get up close and personal with a Brazilian rainbow boa constrictor.
Then she wanted more, grabbing her mom’s smartphone and pointing it on the snake.
"See it?" asked her mom coaching her daughter in how to get a shot.
"She’s just shooting everything," her mother exclaimed as the tiny daughter kept clicking the shutter on the boa.
The family, like others who streamed into the Manitoba Reptile Breeders Expo Sunday, were led mostly by kids, eager to see touch and in some cases buy a snake or a lizard.
The animals aren’t slimy. Their skin is hard and dry like a leather purse and they rarely bite, even the hand that feeds them.
About 700 to 1,000 people turn out for the annual event. This year will see breeders mount a second expo Oct. 4-5.
"There are usually lots of kids. Kids love this stuff," said Winnipeg organizer Casey Trizpit, who specializes in Australian pythons under the name Winnipeg Reptiles. Breeding snakes and lizards started out as a hobby for Trizpit and grew into a business, as it did for most of the 16 breeders at the expo.
The appeal of reptiles is the same as it is for cats and dogs, Trizpit said.
"It’s like any other pet. Some people like dogs. Some like cats, but they can’t keep them… and there are no allergenic issues with these," Trizpit said, gesturing to the hundred or so snakes and reptiles he brought to the show.
The biggest animal on display was his, a black-headed Australian python, he keeps under a city permit for exotic animals. It was 2 1/2 metres long and encased in a large aquarium.
Breeders said Winnipeg is not the reptile-loving city that Toronto and Calgary are and this city has some of the most reptile restrictive bylaws in Canada.