OAKHURST – Kids and parents were tipping the scales at Branches Books and Gifts this week, and we aren’t talking about weight, here.
Bookstore owner Anne Driscoll invited the aptly named educator and entertainer Reptile Ron to visit the shop, and when you get Reptile Ron, you get snakes. You also get spiders and bugs.
The event marks the second time Reptile Ron has stopped by the bookstore, and it seems like he enjoys the interaction with kids and parents just as much as the kids and parents do, which pleases proprietor Anne tremendously.
“It’s fun to host a special event to give back and build a sense of community,” Anne says. “It’s important and worthwhile to have special memories formed that are linked to a bookstore or library, like many of my best childhood memories are.”
With about 50 people showing up for the fun, there’s no doubt the kids and their handlers made special memories galore.
When a child gets to wear a Columbian Boa like a sporty neck-scarf, that’s a memory. When a young person is handed a container holding a Mantis that looks like a creature from a Disney movie, that’s a memory, too.
Some visitors stayed with their feet planted firmly on the pavement, ready to run if the snakes got too close. They didn’t. Others warmed up to the cold-blooded creatures and were seen gently touching or even handling the snakes. When somebody’s MOM pets a snake, that’s a memory, for sure. Everyone who showed up was determined to give the kids a good time, even if it meant tapping into an age-old terror: ophidiophobia. That is, fear of snakes.
The audience was completely attentive as Ron explained about each animal, including where it lives and what it eats, and even talked about some of the myths some animals have about them. Ron is the son of a woman who taught kindergarten for nearly 40 years and has been an animal enthusiast all his life, so he knows how to slip valuable information into the semi-frenzied fun.
“We really enjoy working with the kids and educating people,” says Ron, who has a calm and easy-going way that helps to put everyone (snakes included) at ease. “We get to see their faces light up, they’re having a good time, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Some of the creatures Ron and his assistant Joey Lawrence showed off were a Pueblan Milk Snake, Jungle Carpet Python, Columbian Boa, Reticulated Python, Pink Toed Tarantula, and two kinds of Mantis.
The kids, parents, and shopkeeper Anne were all very pleased with the turnout.
“There is something cool about learning about reptiles or hearing a special story in a different environment that sticks with you throughout life,” Anne explains, adding that this kind of shared adventure is what she’s had in mind, all along. “I love seeing all of the kids and parents sharing a special moment together at my store. That was always a huge part of my vision.”